Someone who we know really quite well has an annoying habit of choosing a film to watch before wandering off to bed after about 40 minutes of it. “I’ve got the gist,” she says – even though she obviously hasn’t.
We’re then left to watch to the end on our own when we never wanted to watch the damn thing in the first place.
It’s not the blithe assumption that she knows what’s going to happen that grates – because of course she doesn’t know – it’s the fact that she simply does not care.
We thought of this untroubled disregard for plots when we saw how Sri Lanka had won the Test series against South Africa.
How did Sri Lanka win the Test series against South Africa?
Before they were in South Africa, Sri Lanka were in Australia and it did not go well. Before that, they were in New Zealand and that also did not go well.
Both series went how insipid Sri Lanka Test tours to these countries always seem to go. They didn’t make enough runs, they didn’t do much with the ball. Pretty much every match started out how you expected it to, progressed how you expected it to and ended where you expected it to.
The South Africa tour has been identical. Except for the last bit.
In the first Test, Sri Lanka were shot out for under 200, were set a big target, almost subsided to a sizeable defeat, but then completely forgot to lose their final wicket and accidentally won.
This week normal service was resumed as they were again shot out for under 200 and even when they struck back in South Africa’s second innings, it didn’t really encourage the notion that they might win again because wickets were falling like peas from the plate of a young child who very strongly does not want to eat peas at this exact moment.
In a low-scoring Test where successive innings totals had gone 222, 154, 128, Sri Lanka needed to make 197 to win. It seemed, in the context of the match, a fairly large number of runs.
They started day three needing 137 runs with eight wickets remaining and things seemed poised. Turns out things weren’t poised. They weren’t poised at all. Kusal Mendis and Oshada Fernando breezed their way to the first century stand of the series and it wasn’t even hard. They made 163 off 213 balls.
If you’re going to change one element out of (a) looking like you’re going to lose the same way that you always lose and (b) actually losing in the same way that you always lose, then that second one is definitely the one to change.