England in Sri Lanka – 31st October 2018

The Nondescripts Cricket Club was founded in 1888 and it looks, and feels, like not much has changed since the early days. The mass of ceiling fans in the pavilion would be a recent addition, and the refrigerator in the bar area, but otherwise the wicker chairs and tables would merely have been upgraded and replaced as the years went by.

 

It’s not often that England play in such classic ‘club’ conditions. 20 or 30 ‘hardcore’ supporters sat in the pavilion area, sweating loyally and trying to make sense of what was happening. The Board XI put 392-9 on the scoreboard against England’s full attack. In 90 overs. It looks like a pasting.

James Anderson and Stuart Broad were clearly ‘grooving’, operating at little more than 70% on a pitch carefully prepared to be as flat and unhelpful as possible to both seamers and spinners. It was always going to be that way. And with 14 players per side, 11 to bat and 11 to bowl, the batting line-up for both teams will be absurdly long.

The home side had everything to gain and nothing to lose. They took their opportunities against the seamers, especially Sam Curran who continues to look innocuous when there is no swing, and attacked the spinners with gusto. Make runs, catch the eye. Fail and, so what?

All that said, it was not a good look for the Board XI to post 392-9 in 90 overs. Three of those wickets were ‘donated’ by batsmen who ‘retired out’ having reached 50. It contributed to the ‘not good’ look.

Traditional, old school scoreboards on the subcontinent may be old gags, especially when the operators make so much effort to get things right these days, but Jos “…won’t melt in his mouth” was too good to miss today.

England’s slip cordon of Root, Burns and Jennings suggests that Joe Denly is still looking for a place in the top order, at the moment. Unless he is included at number three. Whatever the final XI, it seems obvious that England are looking for options to play three spinners. Which leaves Stuart Broad the most likely to miss out amongst the seamers.

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