England in Sri Lanka – 22nd November 2018

As expected, James Anderson was rested for the third and final Test match with Stuart Broad being given a run ahead of Chris Woakes and Olly Stone. Jonny Bairstow will bat at number three following a Test match each for Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes.

Bairstow is a challenging and occasionally prickly character who requires careful maintenance. He feels a little let down by the establishment since losing his place to Ben Foakes – even though he was the one who twisted his ankle playing football and gave Foakes the chance. His inclusion now seems like a compromise of sorts to keep him happy and keep the peace. Joe Denly was a far more obvious and likely number three.

Meanwhile, the more important business of the day was taking place across town at the Colombo Colts Cricket Club (established in 1864) where the TalkSport radio team was facing up to the Barmy Army XI in the second leg of the two-match challenge. The first was a tense T10 affair in Kandy which the commentators and production team won by five wickets off the last ball – despite only having nine players.

The Barmy Army promised to “bring their big guns” for this one so we responded by banning Matt Prior, Darren Gough and Mark Nicholas from the golf course and ordering (asking very politely) them to turn up for the game which had been upgraded from a T10 to another prototype ‘Hundred’ with 15 six-ball overs and a ten-ball over. Inevitably, of course, we lost!

Prior and Nicholas opened the batting and, despite their best attempts to convince themselves and everyone within earshot that they were “just having a bit of fun,” the old sportsman’s competitive instinct kicked in. Unfortunately, a very handy club cricketer from Devon bowled wicked in-swingers and at decent pace and we were 8-2 in the third over.

 

Gareth Batty (the only one of our ‘stars’ to play in Kandy) contributed a fine 40 to rebuild the innings before Goughie took the new (two piece) ball in defense of 109. It was quite an effort for a 49-year-old man with seven steel plates and 15 screws holding his right knee together but, even off six paces and a few extra kilogrammes, the old action was unmistakably there.

The Barmy’s number 10 batsman emerged wearing a helmet and was visibly shaking. The ball hadn’t bounced above thigh height all day. He missed two and blocked two from the ‘Dazzler’ before lashing out at his fifth ball and spanking it over cover for the winning runs.

“You’ve just hit Darren Gough over point to win the game,” I said to him as pulled the helmet off. “You’ll enjoy telling that to the boys in the bar this evening…”

“Forget this f***ing evening,” he grinned wildly back at me. “How about for the rest of me f***ing life!”

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