England in Sri Lanka – 29th October 2018

Eoin Morgan, Alex Hales and a couple of England’s other ‘white ball’ players had earmarked a small corner of their schedule for some down-time following the T20 International at the R.Premadasa Stadium on Saturday, and deservedly so – especially in captain Morgan’s case.

A 2:00am flight from Colombo took then to Dubai and onward to Las Vegas for a little flutter and a taste of life outside the cricket world. Morgan skipped the usual post-match formalities in order to catch a hurried shower at the hotel and pick up his bags. Rarely in my life have I felt a player deserved more the chance to skip away a few minutes early. Morgan has been immense on the field and gone far beyond the parameters of his job description off it throughout the last 25 days. He enjoys ‘a flutter’. Where better to do that than Vegas?

The Test players, meanwhile, were continuing their gentle build-up to the first encounter in Galle on November 6. They play two, status-less 2-day games against strong batting teams next week at the Nondescripts and Colombo Cricket Clubs. They are wonderfully old and venerable venues at which the groundsmen are able to prepare virtually whatever they want. Or what Sri Lanka Cricket want.

SLC released the names of the players to face England over the course of the four days and there is barely a spinner of promise, never mind established. The wickets will be rock hard and shiny without a suggestion of a crack. Spinners would be redundant, even if any had been selected. Which is why they haven’t been.

“I scored a mountain of runs in our warm-up games,” recalled Mark Butcher of his last tour to the Golden Island. “We faced a barrage of medium pacers on a pitch witch neither seamed nor spun. Then we got to Galle for the first Test and they had three spinners turning the ball square from lunch on day one.”

At least England know what to expect – and that nothing has changed. It will be exactly the same. There may even be a further twist with the Nondescripts having insufficient covers to protect the outfield from the last three weeks of monsoon rains. It is wet, sticky and even muddy. Certainly unfit for play in the next few days – and there is (yet more!) rain forecast!

The ODI series may have been a relatively straightforward victory, despite the rain. The Test series will be completely the opposite.

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