England in Sri Lanka – 16th November 2018

England’s left arm spinner Jack Leach is known to be a down-to-earth character with no airs or graces and he delivered one of the more entertaining, self-deprecating post-play interviews of recent times following the second day’s play in the second Test against Sri Lanka in Pallekelle on Thursday.

Having toiled 29 overs for a creditable return of 3-75, the Somerset tweaker was in for a surprise before he even returned to the changing rooms. With only one over to face before the close of play with Sri Lanka having claimed an unlikely and inspiring lead of 46 once 84 runs had been added for the last two wickets, Leach might reasonably have expected a cold shower and a change into shorts and t-shirt.

But with just a single over remaining in the day’s play, captain Joe Root had a word in his ear as the players were leaving the field.

“Burnsy said to me ‘mate, I’ve been waiting five years to open the batting for England and, here you are doing it in after a couple of games!”

Leach was employed as an ‘opening watchman’, one of the rarest jobs in the game. He relished the opportunity, by his own account: “I won’t sleep much tonight unless I’ve got hold of Tres (Marcus Trescothick) to tell him that he’s not the last Somerset left hander to open the batting for England!” he said with a chuckle.

The England support remains a phenomenon for those unused to seeing it. The flags are a visible sign of their individuality but the respect they show to the game, and opposition, needs to be seen to be fully appreciated. Roshen Silva’s craftsmanship in making 85 against England’s spinners drew several rounds of applause despite the damage it was doing to the tourists status in the game.

 

And then there was the sight of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler running five fast laps of the ground after a full day in the field. Just when you thought anybody and everybody would be crying out for a cold shower and a lie-down after the heat and humidity of Kandy on a rain-free day, they did that. The game – and approach to it – isn’t what it used to be.

Having won with bonus points in Galle and dominated the first day in Kandy, England suddenly have a serious fight on their hands and might be contemplating the possibility of a decider in Colombo unless they bat extremely well on day three.

 

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