Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Galle Test: Sri Lanka v England, Day 4

At the close on day three, England need 229 runs. To stop themselves from losing their fourth Test in a row, they will also need a large dollop of patience, skill and a bit of luck. Sri Lanka will need 8 wickets and know that if they put enough pressure on the English batsmen, their current mental state will cause them to play a risky, or in some cases just plain dumb, shot and throw away their wicket on a pitch that once you get in, it's important to stay in and accumulate. 
"History's there to be rewritten, isn't it?" said Graeme Swann yesterday evening. If you were on Twitter earlier in the day, you'd have seen that Bob Willis was trending in the United Kingdom, which usually means either you've missed a classic rant about Steve Harmison or England have been heavily defeated.

Steve Harmison could breathe a huge sigh of relief as it was, sadly for the huge amount of England fans in the ground in Galle and perched on top of the fort, the latter. England's final innings total was their second highest for a fourth innings in Asia (their 8th highest total in Sri Lanka itself), but their awful batting exploits on day 2, mistakes in the field and nobody else learning from their horrible exploits in the first innings to stick around with Jonathan Trott in the second, meant that England were on course to lose their fourth Test in a row.

At a point during the afternoon session, there was hope. It was slim, but there was hope because there was a decent partnership. But this was all but extinguished as key wickets fell in a collapse before the tea interval. Enough talk, here's the ducks with what happened once play began on day 4:

Trott will be a crucial man for England and Sri Lanka, having seen enough of the man at Cardiff, will know this. He gets England's first boundary of the morning as he hits a drive through the covers...
And to the boundary for 4. The Trott Trench is coming along nicely and the look of dogged determination is in his eyes. It's enough to make Geoffrey Boycott purr.
Pietersen, meanwhile, will play as Pietersen does. He wants to dominate this attack, which is one that England managed to over 1600 runs against last summer (granted, in home conditions and when they hadn't just been hopelessly thrashed by Pakistan).
Naturally then, Pietersen almost hits one straight back to Quackmal (sorry), but luckily for KP, it's just out of Quackmal's reach.
In an over that had many England fans of a nervous disposition reaching for a cushion/an early morning gin, Trott had to cope with two incredibly loud appeals for just having his bat near his pad. He then top edged a sweep for a single and it brought Pietersen on strike. Jayawardene has a plan for KP, and it ends up working. He dances down the wicket to Randiv, looking to hit powerfully through the midwicket region...
Only it ends up in Mahela's grasp.
Pietersen is gone. Trott continues to dig his trench. Sri Lanka celebrate wildly and England are reduced to 118-3.
Trott is still there and he decides to bring out a reverse sweep. England have been incapable of playing the sweep shot properly this winter, let alone one in reverse.
His reverse sweep heads to the fine leg boundary for a four...
Allowing him to reach his 50. The Warwickshire boys are England's main hope for now.
But Ian Bell decides to ignore this memo. Having been far more effective using his feet, sometimes coming down the pitch and only bringing out the sweep when it was really, really necessary, Bell decides to bring out the much, much loved premeditated sweep.
He misses, he's struck on the pad and is naturally given out LBW.
Bell reviews almost straight away. He was a long way down the pitch and he may feel that he got an inside edge on it.
But as with so many Hawkeye decisions this game, the ball is shown to be hitting him just about in line and is projected to clip the off stump. It's umpire's call and Bell is on his way for 13. England are 152-4.
Dilshan is brought on for an over or two before the lunch break. Prior, who judging by his shot had probably popped off to the toilet when Ian Bell got out, decides to sweep as well.
Luckily for him, Chandimal misses the chance and Prior gets away with a four. I hope the Boycottism of, "No more brains than a pork pie" was brought out.
England go into the lunch break with no more casualties (apart from the steady disintegration of duck Prior's beard, but enough of that) and they are 177-4, requiring 163 to win (cue Bon Jovi) with 6 wickets left. The afternoon session will have a huge say in the result of this match and both sides, despite England having the potential to do an England, are deemed to still be in it.
Herath and Dilshan continue after lunch and England continue their gradual accumulation.  
Trott gets a single down the ground and it brings up England's 200.
The 50 partnership between Prior and Trott follows. They're like London buses for England in this match.
Prior and Trott's partnership grows and here is where England have that tiny bit of hope. Sri Lanka take the new ball and it allows the pair a break from the trial by spin.
Prior hits Quackmal for 4 with a cover drive. He also hit Welegedara for a lovely 4 through midwicket, but apparently I drew my weird little diagrams and then proceeded to not recreate it. I'll leave you to react how you please.
Slowly and silently, Trott has moved into the 90s. He gradually moves closer to the magic three figures and reaches it by bringing out the sweep shot.
It goes to the boundary for four and Trott raises his bat to the England crowd who are truly appreciative of England's number three.
It's England's first century of the winter, and of 2012. By this point in 2012, England already had three different centurions. Irrelevant information: One of them definitely wasn't Trott because he got a duck at Sydney as he inside edged Mitchell Johnson onto his stumps. 
But Prior's wicket signals the beginning of the end for England. As the celebrations of Trott's century have just died down, Prior brings out the sweep...

And Thirimanne takes a fantastic catch at short leg to reduce England to 233-5. Prior has to go for 41 and it brings to an end the 87 run partnership.
Prior's wicket is also a milestone for Herath. It's the first time that he's got 10 wickets in a Test match and with England's tail now there for the taking, he's got a chance for plenty more. 
And he picks up a 5 wicket haul as Samit Patel decides to thump one straight towards Dilshan at cover...
Who fumbles a bit but ends up taking a good reflex catch. England need less than 100, but the task has just got a whole lot harder. 
Samit walks off with England 252-6.
And Herath has a second 5 wicket haul of the match.
And any hope of an England victory is smothered as the crucial wicket of Trott is finally taken.
Randiv manages to get his edge and the chance flies up to Dilshan again, who takes a good catch at leg slip.
Trott looks shattered. He has worked hard and dug in after his disappointing knock and ultimately hilarious dismissal in the first innings. He is drenched in sweat as he walks off to rapturous applause from the Barmies.
He goes for 112, but England fans will be pleased that someone in the top six has finally got their head down and shown the others how to play.
Swann joins Ian Bell and Matt Prior in getting out to the sweep shot, again. 
He's given out LBW as he misses the ball entirely.
More in a "sod it, we've got one left and I might be lucky" kind of fashion, Swann decides to review the decision (insert reference to using up Broad's review)...
But he's gone. He walks off as his wicket means that it's the final ball of the afternoon session. England are 259-8 and need a miracle to win this. 
Jimmy decides to show his team mates how it's done and sweeps Randiv to great effect. (When played to the correct line/length, the sweep shot is an incredibly useful tool. It's when you're trying to sweep full tosses and miss where you look like a complete fool)
And he hits it over the top for a one bounce four.
But that's it as far as the runs go for England. Two balls later, Jimmy edges behind...
And finds that Prasanna Jayawardene has taken an excellent catch. 
England are 264-9 and in comes Monty. If Broad can hog the strike and Monty can block like he did in Cardiff, then who knows. Stranger things, like Jason Gillespie got a double century before Jacques Kallis, have happened.
Or not. Randiv gets Monty for a golden as he edges...
And is once again taken by Dilshan, this time at second slip. Randiv will be on a hat-trick in Colombo, England are all out for 264.
Monty and Broad walk off dejected. Fielding errors and awful batting have cost England this match...
But you can take nothing away from Sri Lanka. Mahela Jayawardene's magnificent knock of 180 in Sri Lanka's first innings, Prasanna Jayawardene's incredibly useful runs lower down the order and Rangana Herath's match bowling figures of 12-171 have been the major contributions to Sri Lanka getting their first win in Sri Lanka since the retirement of Murali. They now have 2 wins in 17 Tests and must believe that they have a chance to win the Test in Colombo too.
England probably can't wait to return to the green and pleasant land, but they can't hide behind their own conditions to rectify this problem. What are they going to do when Imran Tahir comes over here? Run and hide in a corner of the dressing room?

For now, England will want to focus on trying to win in Colombo. Can they win at a ground where Sri Lanka have won 7 and drawn 4 out of 14 matches? England have only played at the P Sara Oval once and they won, but this victory occurred in 1982. Will England make changes? Find out on Tuesday after the match has taken place, where I'll have recreated and rambled on with some rubbish underneath in a sleep deprived state, but I hope you'll want to come back because, well, they're rubber ducks playing cricket.

See you Tuesday. 

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