Category: Sri Lanka (page 1 of 15)

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?

Super.


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.

 


England are eight up with 12 points still available

Is that the score in the Super Series? Cricinfo helpfully – and somewhat surprisingly – provides a points table for Sri Lanka’s current tour, but you then have to check the fixture list and guess at each match’s value to work out what’s still to come.

We’ve said that a format-spanning points system can only work if people buy into it. This most definitely hasn’t happened yet, but we suppose nothing much has been on the line in that regard yet. Maybe people will start to notice it as the one-dayers wear on.

Considering it’s near enough the longest day, it feels rather like cricket’s in a bit of a lull at the minute. Or is it us?


It’s the Lord’s Test – you know what that means, right?

Lord's Cricket Ground pavilion

It means it’s time for great swathes of flowery sentimental guff about what is, at the end of the day, a load of grass surrounded by plastic seats, overlooked by blocks of flats.

The only way we can get through the misty-eyed paeans to Lord’s these days is to turn it into a game. If you’re actively looking for eye-watering sentiment, it isn’t quite so eye-rollingly infuriating when it happens.

As ever, we’ve got particularly high hopes for Mark Nicholas so we’re recording Channel 5’s highlights show specifically to hear his monologue.

This year we’re hoping for a ‘hallowed turf’. We’ll be punching the air if we get one.

Apparently there’s a match on too.


Swing, seam and no place to go – the joys of touring England as a modern overseas batsman

Touring England’s never been easy. The conditions, for most overseas batsmen, are as weird and difficult as one of those early-Nineties computer games made by one slightly unhinged bloke in his bedroom. Nothing works how they expect it to and they search for a solution with no real certainty that such a thing even exists. The challenge is even greater nowadays when few players benefit from long stints in county cricket.

When Kumar Sangakkara first toured in 2002, he played three Tests, didn’t pass 40 and averaged 21. On his second tour, in 2006, he averaged 38.50 with a top score of 66. On his third tour, in 2011, he finally made a hundred, but pretty much no other runs and averaged 30.66. It wasn’t until 2014 that he finally cracked it, making a hundred and three fifties and averaging 85.50.

It takes a while.

Sangakkara was a half-decent batsman and he had it relatively easy as well. He didn’t have to face this current England attack. Snooty comments about the quality of this Sri Lanka team – and there have been many – show a real lack of comprehension of just what the tourists are up against.

Bowling well in England requires two main qualities. You need to find some movement – either swing, seam or both – and you need to bowl with enough control to exploit that. At this point in their careers, James Anderson and Stuart Broad do both of those things just about as well as anyone ever has.

There may have been better England bowlers, but in Tests taking place in England there have rarely been more consistent performers.

Touring England’s never been easy. In 2016, with these two at their peak, it’s rarely ever been much harder.


Turns out we’re really rather delighted that Moeen Ali made a daddy hundred

Cricket - England v India - Fourth Investec Test - Day Two - Old Trafford, Manchester

A daddy hundred’s anything over 150, right? Sounds about right. Graham Gooch should get in touch to correct us if we’re wrong.

Sometimes it’s not entirely obvious how you feel about a player until you’ve seen what they’ve done without actually watching it happen. We were out all day and when we thought to check the Test score, Moeen Ali had made a hundred. We were somewhat unexpectedly delighted by this.

Checking the score gives you a purer experience. You don’t get chance to come to terms with what’s happened. The facts just hit you and you’re forced to react instantaneously. Turns out we really like Moeen Ali.

We sort of feel pleased for Chris Woakes in a ‘good on him’ kind of way as well. There’s a bit less clarity on that one, we’ll be honest.


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