England in Sri Lanka – 18th November 2018

Kandy Lake was eerie at 6:20am this morning. It looked more like an airbrushed movie set than real life, but it was real so the impact was undiminished, even by my sweaty panting as I puffed around it. Oddly enough, the surreality of the scene was decent preparation for the day’s play,

Ben Foakes whacked the second ball he received for six to help England cross the 300 mark and then Keaton Jennings turned the match on its head, twice, with fielding moments even he struggled to describe.

The short leg catch to dismiss Dananjaya de Silva was brilliant but as ‘orthodox’ as these things can be. A fast-flying edge and an instant, spontaneous one-handed catch. Brilliant not so much for the reflexes as for the ability to maintain his position and watch the ball.

The second catch was properly freaky, although he will never be credited for it. Opener Dimuth Karunaratne swept the ball off the full face of the bat. Jennings anticipated the shot and took a step and half to his left, watching the ball all the time, and managed to get his left hand to it, but not grab it. But it spun upwards from his grasp and into the gloves of Ben Foakes. With 1000 attempts it may never have been possible to recreate such a dismissal.

“We have worked a lot on anticipation in practise,” said Jennings afterwards, “but there is obviously an element of luck, too. All you can do is maximise your chances by watching the ball and giving yourself a chance.”

But why did he get the job? Not exactly a natural choice at six-foot-two. “Good question! There’s the usual seniority thing and then who else is available…but I was happy to give it a go and try to be the best I could be in that position,” Jennings said.

So Sri Lanka start the fifth morning with 75 runs required for victory and three wickets in hand.  Niroshan Dickwella (27*) and Akila Dananjaya are comfortably good enough to get the home side close, if not over the line. The Test match, and possibly the series, will be decided before lunch on the fifth day. Good job we still have a fifth day. The move towards four-day Tests is gaining momentum all the time.

 

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