England in Sri Lanka – 1st November 2018

No matter what happened at the Nondescripts Cricket Club today, the greater interest appeared to be what was happening on the streets of the Sri Lankan capital.

A decade ago I was shopping for cheap DVDs in the Liberty Plaza shopping mall with a journalist colleague. 10 minutes after we left, we heard what sounded like a very large bomb. There was a good reason for that. It was a bomb big enough to kill 40 people, detonated in a tuk-tuk right outside where we had just been.

Strangely enough, neither of us felt it was sufficient reason to curtail the tour. But the players did, and used our experience as reason to justify it. Might we be facing a similar situation?

There is undoubtedly extreme anger amongst the populace about the unilateral replacement of the prime minister by a president who, by all accounts, has no constitutional right to do so. Terrible generalisation as it is, the vast majority of Sri Lankans are mild-mannered and peaceful. But boy – do they seem angry now!

We are safe and secure, protected from the forecast protests by our luxury hotel. But that’s what New Zealand’s cricket team were told 18 years ago before a bomb exploded in front of their hotel lobby. There is little to indicate a change on the streets – apart from an increase in armed soldiers at strategic points around the city. This guy (excuse the rushed photo) was positioned opposite the England team’s hotel.

Anyway, while we are concentrating on what happened on the field, let’s pat tribute to captain Joe Root who completed a (mostly completely meaningless) century for the benefit of the 30-or-so hardcore England supporters in attendance at the Nondescripts Cricket Club today. It was a milestone to be instantly forgotten, but the round of applause was worth it for those delivering it.

Short leg fielder Pathum Nissanka will never forget his helmet – ever. It may well have saved his life. Jos Buttler hit the pull shot “as hard as any, ever” and  it smashed straight into the badge on the fierlder’s forehead. After a 15-minute hold-up, the fielder (having regained consciousness) was stretchered off the field. “Of course I was worried, very worried. It was a horrible time,” Buttler admitted.

The Clock Tower in the centre of Colombo is the point from which every distance is measured throughout the country. It was, for almost 50 years, the only clock tower / lighthouse in the world.

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