England in Sri Lanka – 9th November 2018

This Test match is turning out as strange and unlikely as Leicester City winning the Championship. OK, not that strange or unlikely. But England lost the first session of the contest in dramatic fashion by scrambling to 113-5 at lunch but have bounced back to win the next eight sessions in a row. They now have the result in their own hands with another 180 overs to be bowled. Only the weather can deny them. Surely?

Keaton Jennings is developing a split (cricketing) personality. In 10 Test matches in England he has yet to reach 50 and averages 17. In three Tests on the subcontinent he has two centuries and a fifty and averages 72. He looks stiff and awkward at home but, if not exactly ‘athletic’ or ‘agile’ on tour, he is certainly far more flexible and plays sweeps and reverse sweeps with a strong sense of confidence. Never mind the aesthetics. Irrelevant.

After a month of rain delays, either on the cricket field or in traffic, we’ve enjoyed three gloriously dry days with sunrises and sunsets complemented by the unfulfilled threat of rain from the multi-coloured clouds. All the better to watch Stokes, Buttler and Foakes provide fast-scoring cameos to complement the Jennings relentlessness.

And the England fans continue to watch and appreciate every moment. Almost. Another sell-out crowd was a little thinner on the ground than on days one and two with several hundred opting to take 3-4 hour excursions into the ‘rain forest’ deep south of the island before returning to the last 3-4 hours of cricket. They had VERY long days!

Four days ago I posted a photograph of the Fort with ‘smoke’ emerging from a drain in one of the main streets. Here it is again. Let me explain.

When the Dutch claimed the Fort from the Portuguese in 1640 and built it into the fortress it is today, their engineering skills did not just extend to the walls. They constructed an extraordinary sewerage system under the streets at exactly the right level which allowed the high tide to flood the under-street canals and wash its contents into the ocean while remaining dry at low tide. A sort-of twice-a-day ‘flush’ of the town’s communal toilet system.

To this day the system remains in place although, thankfully, water treatment systems exist to prevent raw sewerage being flushed into the sea. But the drains remain a fertile breeding ground for mosquitoes so, when the time comes for the Fort to be ‘cleansed’, the anti-mossie fog is simply pumped into the underground drainage system, seeping out through the street level vents.

Meanwhile, a grilled baby tuna dinner may be fantastic value at $10 but, having been fed royally at lunchtime with Tandoori chicken, dahl and seafood curry, it was time to snack like a local. It may look like a samosa but it is actually a roti filled with vegetables and lightly fried in coconut oil. Impossible delicious and even more impossibly priced at 50 Rupees a piece. I’m not sure I can even work that out. About $1 – for two.

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