This post also appears at spincricket.com.
Ball One (Eng 111-2) – So what does history tell us about the day to come? It would be England’s biggest successful run chase ever in Tests (and they’ve been playing them for 135 years) – so no chance, right? On the other hand – and there is so often another hand in Test cricket – if the remaining England men bat their averages and debutant Samit chips in with 35, KP, Trott and extras need only provide 34 runs between them to get the visitors over the line – so that’s the win easy, right? Whichever way you cut it, all we know is that we don’t know – and that we’re going to find out.
Ball Two (Eng 117-2) – The opportunity to use technology to review umpires’ decisions has revealed (as if we didn’t know) that appealing is all about unsettling umpires and batsmen. Off consecutive balls, the entire Sri Lankan close field were up for the bat-pad catch off Jonathan Trott. Having been answered in the negative by Rod Tucker, Mahela had the chance to refer but chose not to do so, with no attempt to persuade him otherwise from his team-mates. Convincing appeals convince nobody in the age of DRS and are somewhat unedifying – but inevitable and universal.
Ball Three (Eng 128-3) – With all the time in the world, batsmen must assess the balance of attack and defence, session by session, over by over, ball by ball. Having been overly cautious in failing to chase 140-odd vs Pakistan this winter, England appear determined not to let the Lankans simply bowl at them. The judgements can be very fine. Trott’s pre-meditated reverse sweep to reach fifty brought him four runs but was quite a risk coming so soon after KP’s dismissal. Ian Bell’s chasse down the wicket and loft to the unmanned long-on boundary to get off the mark, moved a fielder into the deep and showed Mahela who was boss. Trott’s shot too risky and Bell’s just right? Look in the scorebook would be the batsmen’s response, and they would be right..
Ball Four (Eng 152-4) – Ian Bell, who has had his luck with the DRS in the past, isn’t best pleased to be given out plainly believing that he hit it – or, pace Ball Two above – is it all a charade, the mind games played with umpires and opposition? If he did hit it, the tickle must have been the faintest of under-edges, which are hard enough to see with Hotspot never mind without it (as is the case here). DRS or no DRS, if a batsman thinks that the best option for balls like that is a pre-meditated sweep (the shot Bell played), he won’t last long anyway.
Ball Five (Eng 231-4) – 15 of the 16 successful chases of 325 or more to win a Test have been constructed around a century-maker. England will have known that (instinctively, if not statistically) and will have spoken overnight about one man getting the ton and the rest batting around him. Trott – as so often – has delivered under pressure, so can his team-mates do their bit and get over the line? Trott – after a very impressive display – has every right to expect exactly that.
Ball Six (Eng 264 all out, SL win by 75 runs) – Wonderful Test match in which Mahela Jayawardene was brilliant, Rangana Herath and Jonathan Trott excellent and Suraj Randiv and Jimmy Anderson very good. A 75 runs margin was about right, but the result was in doubt until Jonathan Trott was England’s seventh man out 20 minutes playing time before the finish. Sri Lanka will gain confidence with a rare Test win without Murali and England will wonder if they are any closer to dealing with sub-continental spin. Colombo beckons next week.
You can tweet Gary Naylor at @garynaylor999