England in Sri Lanka – 21st November 2018

It does seem mildly ridiculous that a simple, three-hour train journey in a modest carriage with no frills, bells or whistles could be quite so much fun – but it was. The main reason, I suspect, was the relief we all felt at not having to do the trip from Kandy to Colombo by road again.

Before the journey Gareth Batty referred to the train by its vernacular name in his part of the world – the ‘rattler’ – but it could hardly have been more appropriate. My fitbit was fooled into thinking we’d done 9000 steps by the time we arrived.

There was the sense of history, too. Built in the 1860s, the line remains one of the more impressive feats of engineering in the railway world. Credited to the colonial English, it was the hundreds of thousands of local labourers who really deserve the plaudits. As is always the way. Many of the signs in the station also appear to be originals from 150 years ago.

 

Batty’s fear of heights saw him leaning spontaneously away from the 1500 foot drop on his side of the carriage although, had he been sitting on the right hand side, he may have been similarly unimpressed with the rock faces barely a foot away from the open windows.

But that’s what it was all about. Open windows, peanut and samosa vendors every 20 minutes and toilets which could convince you to keep your legs crossed for days. The seats were comfortable and the leg room plentiful in second class. First class was identical except all the windows were closed and it was air-conditioned which, ordinarily, we would have loved. But there was something far more natural about trying to use the natural breeze as an anti-melting agent. It even worked for Matty P.

It’s odd how we assume those blessed with sporting skill and success would be changed people, that they would have expectations extending a very great further than second class train travel. Prior and Batty could easily have taken a chauffeur-driven car (it’s also odd how easily production crews facilitate such options) but they would have been appalled at such a notion. Both England internationals, one a three-time Ashes winner and the other with a 22-year professional career behind him – with another year to come – as humble and down-to-earth as the man who clipped our train tickets. Just thought that was worth a mention.

The two of them spent the evening at a charity sports quiz in aid of men’s health and ‘Movember’ with the England team last night and neither woke up before 11:30am this morning. We can only assume it was a fun evening. And extremely well deserved.

The Barmy Army has challenged the TalkSport team to another T10 match tomorrow. Hurt by their defeat in Kandy, they have promised to bring their ‘big guns.’ Which is fine. Having missed the first game, Matty P will be joining forces with the BatMan in our ranks. 

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