England in Sri Lanka – 22nd October 2018

Bizarrely, England chose to drive straight to Colombo after last night’s fourth ODI. It took them close to six hours which meant they didn’t arrive in the capital until shortly before midnight. The road was awash with floodwater and their blue-light convoy did almost nothing to clear the way ahead. It made a lot of noise but traffic jams can’t simply move aside when there is no room to do so,

At least they had a full day to relax in their luxury hotel today. Those of us who chose to use the traffic-lite Sunday to make the drive from Kandy reaped the benefits. It only took us five hours. No matter how many times you have driven the route – too many to remember in my case – it’s impossible not to think ‘almost there’ when you pass a sign reading “Colombo 35 km”. The reality is that means an hour and a half. The entire distance from door to door is only 130km.

It might help if there weren’t so many tempting stops along the way. And with a minibus load of TalkSport crew sipping water and nibbling snacks, pit-stops were inevitable. But they are never, ever quick.

The last stop en route to the hotel was the R,Premadasa Stadium, 40,000 capacity venue for the 5th ODI on Tuesday and Saturday’s solitary T20. England are expected to make wholesale changes to their starting XI with starts for Mark Wood, Liam Plunkett and possible Sam Curran. The truth is, they just had too many talented players in the squad from the outset. It may have been possible to do justice to the selections if all four matches had been played over 100 overs, but it’s hard not to imagine it’s felt like a pleasant holiday for the outriders.

Dambulla and Pallekelle are steeped in culture and history, and we were all determined to give ourselves the very best chance to absorb and appreciate it. We did well, and learned a lot. We are all looking forward to being back in Kandy for the second Test (Pallekelle). But it’s wonderful to be back in Colombo, perhaps the most cosmopolitan and diverse city in the subcontinent. It’s all good to have the Great Wall of China, Victoria Falls and the Egyptian Pyramids on your life-time bucket list, but for something less ambitious, more relaxing, less expensive and deeply satisfying, write “Sri Lanka” in the ‘to do’ list. You won’t regret it.

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