Brace yourself, we’re going to mention football.
One thing we learned from our years watching that soap opera-cum-sport is that a goalie should ‘make himself big’ when a forward is bearing down on him. The purpose of this is not, as you might think, to ward off predators. It is so that it’s harder to get the ball past him.
Goalies do this when the forward is so close that they wouldn’t have time to react to a shot. At this level of proximity, their body is basically just a static target, so bigger is better. There are similarities to fielding at short leg and Sri Lanka’s Lahiru Thirimanne seems to adopt a similar philosophy.
England’s second innings turned on a lucky catch that few other fielders would have been in a position to take. Matt Prior clipped the ball to what would have been Thirimanne’s right at short-leg if the fielder hadn’t predicted where it was going, shuffled across and ‘made himself big’. The ball hit him in the midriff and then he caught it.
This seems flukey, but something similar happened in England’s first innings. On that occasion, Ian Bell was not out because the ball rebounded off Thirimanne’s helmet into the keeper’s hands and you can’t be given out if the ball comes off protective equipment. Even so, Thirimanne had again shuffled across, predicting the direction of the stroke and made himself big.
In football, this is a sensible ploy, because your primary aim is simply to block the ball. In cricket, it is less likely to result in success, because the ball still needs to be caught, but it is also fraught with danger. Footballers are complete pansies and play with a soft, light ball. A cricket ball is more like a half-brick and no-one wants a half-brick in the nads.