Galle, day three

On the one hand, trailing by 125 after the first innings I think one would take bowling the opposition out for 214. England, however, have to massively disappointed with their display in the field today. Graeme Swann was excellent again, and his six wicket haul reduced Sri Lanka to 127-8 at one point. If England had got the last two quickly they probably would have been favourites to win. Instead Strauss insisted on giving Other Jayawardene singles to try to bowl at the tail-enders. Jayawardene milked runs and with Panesar and Patel looking very flat the score climbed and climbed. Broad almost finished the innings with the deficit still under 300, but it was a no-ball and from then on England got very sloppy. Another 47 runs were conceded and the match appeared to slip away in that afternoon session. The last wicket rather appropriately fell off a run out: it was the only way England looked like taking it.

To say that it was very frustrating would be an understatement. It is not the first time England have done this, against MS Dhoni and India last summer would be the best example. For some reason, when tail-enders are at the crease all of England’s brilliant plans seem to go out the window. The seamers resort to short bowling and Strauss tries to give the batsman with the higher score a single to bowl at the other one. Today England had taken eight wickets for under 130 runs with orthodox bowling plans, surely if we had persisted with that the last two would have come. But we didn’t. Easy singles kept the pressure off, as Sri Lanka knew that every one was worth far more than England were making it look. It was some of the worst tail-end bowling one will see and it ultimately cost us 87 runs. Given the state of the match, there is every chance that those runs will prove the difference.

England were slightly unfortunate with respect to technology today though. Randiv appeared to have edged a sweep behind early on, but the umpire gave it not out. There was a clear noise as the ball passed the bat, but the bat was also close to the ground. England opted not to review with no HotSpot and it certainly would not have been overturned. However, the sound looked to be as the ball passed the bat, not as the bat passed the ground and in any case was a clear ‘click’. It was the same sound as a regulation outside edge, not the sound of bat on ground. Much later, Cook was batting against Dilshan and tried to work one away to leg. The ball passed the bat, went onto the ‘keepers gloves and the Sri Lankans celebrated. The on field umpire inexplicably gave it not out, however and it looked like the same situation may arise. Sri Lanka did review though, and the third umpire gave it out. It was slightly controversial, as there was nothing specific to say Cook hit it, but the right decision was made. There is no doubt at all that Cook hit the ball, there seemed to be a noise and the reactions both of Cook and the fielders spoke volumes. Everything about it screamed out, and I cannot believe the umpire did not give it on the field. There will be complaints about it, but justice was done. Certainly it serves Cook for not walking straightaway (look at his reaction and it is clear that he knows he hit it). I’ve no sympathy for him at all. The only thing about which England can be upset is not getting the decision in the morning (and that one was a lot closer).

England finish the day needing another 229 runs with eight wickets in hand. It’s fairly interestingly poised. I said yesterday that if one ignores form, England could chase 350 and that’s still true. If England bat sensibly there are no demons in either the pitch or the attack and if we had conceded fifty fewer runs I’d say we were well on top. 340 would be a record breaking chase though, and Strauss did his best to help Sri Lanka’s cause by skipping down the wicket and hitting a ball straight to mid-on. It was an irresponsible shot from any batsman, but especially from the captain. It was downright irresponsible and much as I like Strauss, I hope he gets a dressing down from Flower and Gooch. Despite that though, 111-2 is not a bad position. The last four batsmen put on almost 100 in the first innings, so England will think that if Trott, KP, Bell, Patel and Prior can combine for a very feasible 150 more runs they are in with a very good shout. A collapse always looks a ball away when England are batting though, and I think it will all fall apart tomorrow morning. One foolish shot from KP may be enough for us to end up 200 all out.

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