Category: Sri Lanka (page 1 of 16)

Shaun Marsh and his duck tax

It’s common for people to ask: if Shaun Marsh is the answer, what is the question? As often as not, the question is “who’s the selectorial equivalent of a last desperate roll of the dice?”

Australia have not been making runs in Sri Lanka. In the first two Tests their scores were 203, 161, 106 and 183. Against that backdrop, a duck from a top order batsman doesn’t feel too costly – and if there’s a one in ten chance that the duck-scorer might instead make a hundred, you might as well take a punt. Enter Shaun Marsh.

Selecting Marsh is all about what might happen; very rarely about what probably will happen. In Tests, he makes good hundreds interspersed with a hell of a lot of ducks. His first-class record meanwhile is not much better than reasonable, so there aren’t really grounds for optimism there either. You select Shaun Marsh in hope. It’s quite heart-warming in a way.

The problem for Australia is that Marsh inclusion also comes with a cost. For every “he’s finally cracked it!” there’s a long stretch of “oh no, he hasn’t” to bring the world back into order.

The selectors appear to be onto him however. In December, he made 182 against the West Indies. He was then dropped. This has seemingly allowed him to pay his duck tax in the nets because upon his return to the side, he’s made another hundred.

Or maybe this is all part of the Marsh masterplan. Two hundreds in two Test innings might earn him a long stretch in the side to disprove himself. It’s inadvisable to commit to dice-rolling in the long-term.

Pakistan play spin better than Australia

Different matches and – to be fair to Australia – different degrees of difficulty too. All the same, it seems a fair conclusion to draw.

In England, Azhar Ali and Sami Aslam seemed uncertain whether to milk Moeen Ali or just belt him for sixes. In the end, they reached the conclusion that they’d do both. It wasn’t as if the seamers were doing much better. England ended the day looking a bit fast-medium and more than a little tetchy.

Meanwhile, in Sri Lanka, Australia folded as if prepared by Miura. Bowled out for 106 in their first innings, they sustained much of the damage in three balls from that homicidal capybara, Rangana Herath, who gummed a hat-trick.

Australia’s woes wouldn’t be half as funny if they hadn’t spent much of the build-up to this series talking incredibly earnestly about their gameplans for facing spin.

“It’s about making sure you have a plan from ball one,” said Steve Smith with conviction. “You’ve got to be able to bat well into the next day,” added David Warner – as if that were in any way an option.

Kusal Mendis doesn’t think they’re gonna need a bigger boat

Once upon a time, a colleague of ours, who we’ll call Gill (because that’s her name), asked another colleague, who we’ll call Stefan (because that’s his name), for help with her computer.

We can’t remember the specific issue. It was just one of those generic computer problems that crops up from time to time in offices throughout the world. Stefan was best-qualified to offer some sort of solution and he was basically sitting next to her.

“Stefan, I can’t…” began Gill – finishing that sentence with a few pertinent details.

Stefan ignored her.

After a few seconds of persevering alone, Gill tried again. “Stefan, how do I…?”

Again, Stefan ignored her.

There were maybe ten people in the room and we all watched in silence as Gill repeatedly pleaded with Stefan for help. Every single time, he blanked her. Gill’s frustration built, as did the tension in the room.

Gill was somewhat combustible anyway, but this was especially annoying. After a few minutes of being blatantly ignored, she exploded. She stood and shrieked at him about what an arsehole he was and then fled from the room.

After a moment, another girl followed her. When she returned, she revealed that Gill was in the toilets crying.

We all sat in silence, stony-faced.

After a few minutes of this, Stefan looked up from his computer, glanced to his right, and then asked: “Where’s Gill?”

It is quite extraordinary to maintain that level of obliviousness to what is going on around you, but Sri Lanka’s Kusal Mendis would appear to be a man cut from similar cloth.

The first Test between Sri Lanka and Australia saw 44 individual innings and of those, just two exceeded 50. This was not an easy pitch to bat on. This was a hard pitch to bat on; a treacherous pitch even. If a batsman had any regard whatsoever for what was happening around him, he would have been spooked. He would have been justifiably spooked.

In that context, Steven Smith’s 55 was a tour de force.

Kusal Mendis made 176.

One can only conclude that Kusal Mendis simply didn’t notice the danger.

All in all, it wasn’t a great match for Australia, but they did at least set a world record: 25.4 overs without a single run scored.

Well batted, chaps.

Kusal Mendis has played an innings

We haven’t seen any of this Sri Lanka v Australia Test. It’s on Eurosport 2 which stopped working a couple of months ago. The prospect of speaking to BT to try and get the channel working again led us to conclude that it is best left unfixed.

We have apparently missed a remarkable innings from Kusal Mendis.

In 1877, Charles Bannerman made 165 out of 245 for Australia against England in Test match number one. At 67.3 per cent, that remains the highest proportion of runs made by one player in a completed innings. Bannerman did however have the advantage of being an opening batsman.

At the age of 21, with just one Test fifty to his name before this match, Kusal Mendis swanned in at number four and made a hundred. When he reached three figures (with a six) his team’s score was just 134. Being as Sri Lanka were bowled out for 117 in their first innings, he had therefore made not just a ridiculous proportion of the runs in their second innings, but getting on for half of their runs across both innings.

Australia made 203 in their first innings. Batting has not been easy. Mendis was in fact the first to reach 50 in the match. At the time of writing, they’ve gone off for bad light but when they return he’ll resume on 169 out of a total of 282-6.

Kusal Mendis has played an innings.

Angelo Mathews’ super durability sorely tested by Super Series

Ill-applied and irrelevant (ironic given that it’s meant to make the individual fixtures more relevant) the Super Series score does at least give us a numerical overview of Sri Lanka’s tour of England. We know that it was an unsuccessful one for the tourists – but how unsuccessful? Well, it finished 20-4 to England, which even when you’ve never seen a points result before is quite obviously a shellacking.

Sri Lanka got half their points when it pissed it down at Lord’s, another for the one-day tie at Trent Bridge and then the clouds gifted them a fourth at Bristol. In effect, they earned one point and meteorology earned three.

They’re not a bad team. They just seem to be lacking the freakishly talented or freakishly unusual players they’ve often had in the past. It’s all been a bit of a slog. We don’t mean slog in a last-over-of-a-Twenty20 sense. We mean it in a long drive to London with ever-increasing volumes of traffic and you’re only going for some sort of pointless business meeting anyway sense – a wearying obligation from which you derive no pleasure and which is highly likely to prove unproductive too.

The captain, Angelo Mathews, has often seemed on the cusp of folding. He could carry on batting, bowling, fielding, captaining and occasionally popping off the field for hamstring treatment, but you’d also forgive him if he concluded life would be easier if he just climbed into a small drawer and pulled it closed.

England meet Pakistan all buoyant and chatty. Sri Lanka head home wishing they had more than a fortnight before the first Test against Australia.

Jason Roy has one wheel in the air

Still taken from Sky Sports

Still taken from Sky Sports

It’s good to see Jason Roy making hundreds in one-day internationals. Earlier in the year, we were concerned that he wrongly thought he should give himself time in Twenty20. While he ultimately got over that, we’ve since been worried that he might subsequently do the reverse and try take his Twenty20 approach into the middle format.

England have found success in T20 through successfully encouraging their batmen to put a low price on their wickets. They bat right on the cusp of irresponsibility in the knowledge that there is always – to quote every commentator ever – “plenty of batting to come.”

In 50-over cricket, there isn’t always plenty of batting to come. Sometimes you run out of batting. 50-over sides need the proper batsmen to hang around. They still need them to score quickly, but not with almost complete disregard for their own survival.

Like pulling a wheelie, it’s tough to find the right balance, but Jason Roy is currently somewhere near the right spot.

What shall we do this afternoon?

You know, with all the rain and stuff? If you’re actually at the ground, the escapism can continue regardless of whether there’s any play or not. But what about those of us more dependent on the cricket itself for such a thing?

Basking in the drizzle at the Oval, spectators can revel in their collective stoicism. They are unencumbered by the guilt that arises alongside the nagging feeling that you should be doing something else. The day has already been set aside and in many ways the cessation of play frees them from their one remaining obligation.

They take turns buying their maximum permissible order of four pints and they relax. They chat unhurriedly, about whatever-the-hell lurches into their half-cut consciousness.

Beyond the ground, people make great efforts to follow the cricket and rain delays sentence them to that most horrific activity known as “doing stuff”. As often as not, the stuff to be done is stuff you’re in some way obliged to do as well, which is of course the worst stuff of all to have to do.

People always talk about the paying public being the ones who are worst affected when a cricket match is rained off, but there are unseen, unpaying millions who suffer way, way more than them.

Shortening cricket matches in anticipation of rain

We were in Bristol to see England play Sri Lanka yesterday. Without wishing to saunter too far into match report territory, we and our companions finished the day by setting a strict departure time when we would cease standing around in the rain and would instead head home.

It wasn’t that we thought there was still some outside chance of play. It was more that this is the traditional way of going about things when a match is being rained off. You make a deadline and you stick to it in defiance of reason. Watching cricket on a rainy day is very much about summoning optimism in the face of facts and to stand there in the rain, knowing the match was finished, seemed the purest example of this spirit.

We knew the match had finished not because it had been officially announced, but because, like everyone in the crowd, we had access to all manner of weather apps and rainfall radars and the like. If truth be known, long before their arrival at the ground, pretty much everyone in the crowd knew that the players would depart mid-afternoon, never to be seen again.

The match was viewed in that knowledge. Most people knew they were there to see a one innings game; that all that was taking place before them was in all likelihood meaningless. This seems an odd situation.

When a one-day match is hit by rain, it is shortened. However, matches are never shortened in anticipation of rain. Is this right?

The danger of shortening a match for rain-that-is-yet-to-come is of course that said rain might never fall, leading to the bizarre spectacle of the match ending prematurely in bright sunshine. This does however seem to us a more acceptable outcome than the going-through-the-motions half game we witnessed yesterday.

Perhaps the umpires – or better yet, some well-informed locals – could be entrusted to make a call on shortening a match based on the likelihood of impending rain. There are days of scattered showers and there are days where a wall of water is slowly looming into view from the west and it’s just a matter of time. In the latter case, a halving of the overs would seem sensible.

And if informed people in positions of power are unwilling to take such a decision, they could always absolve themselves of responsibility by putting it to a public vote.

Hales and Roy

Completely missed this. Personally, we blame those who call for and schedule public decisions on matters of national importance for distracting us from the chance to witness a spectacular England run-chase.

Except where the opposition for some reason fold, 10 wicket England one-day victories come around, what, once every thousand years?

It’s almost like England are a proper one-day side these days. Odd how quickly things can change.

Oh and England have won the Super Series, no?


The next Ben Stokes

England have long been on the lookout for someone who might one day fill the gigantic, timeless boots of Ben Stokes. Ever since the combative all-rounder suffered a knee injury in May 2016, they have yearned for a frontline bowler who can also play memorable major innings.

In many ways, it is an impossible quest and player after player has buckled after being unfairly labelled ‘the next Ben Stokes’. Chris Woakes is the latest to attract that unwanted description, but in the first one-day international against Sri Lanka, he gave further evidence of the quality we saw in the preceding Tests.

He may never become the next Ben Stokes – not least because he’s older than him – but maybe the public can one day come to warm to him as the first Chris Woakes.

The match was tied. It was tied because Liam Plunkett mullered a six off the final ball. Liam Plunkett was able to tie the game because Chris Woakes had made a frantic three of the penultimate ball. Woakes set himself up for that vital three with another 92 runs before that.

It’s not often your number eight top scores with 95 not out. Good knock, Woakes-o.


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