First to Kandy, where the five minutes when it was both dry and bright enough to play cricket saw Sri Lanka set Australia 268 to win.
David Warner’s recently-discovered inability to make runs outside Australia persisted as he was bowled for one, and the tourists also lost Joe Burns and Usman Khawaja before Steve Smith whinged about how dark it was and they went off.
Burns was dismissed by what must surely qualify as ‘a ripper‘ from Lakshan Sandakan whose debut brings not just smashing wrist spin but also a great many initials. Paththamperuma Arachchige Don Lakshan Rangika Sandakan matches even Chaminda Vaas for number of names, but alas he must bow to the eternal master when it comes to syllables. Don’t mess with the big boys.
Speaking of which…
Marlon Samuels has been saying things. It’s always worth listening to Marlon, because he’s hilarious.
The West Indies lost the first Test against India by an innings and Marlon refuses to say that it’s because they have a young team.
“For me to say that is like finding excuses for the team. It’s a Test team, and Test cricket is big-man cricket, and the players should know that by now.”
Neil Wagner took six wickets
New Zealand are currently 235-2 against Zimbabwe which we take as proof that it is not just difficult to take wickets on this pitch, but near-enough impossible.
Laughing uproariously in the face of near-enough impossibility, The Great Neil Wagner took 6-41. Four of his wickets came off moderate-paced short balls.
Neil Wagner is the most effective moderate-paced short-pitched bowler in the world. This also makes him the most miraculous bowler in the world.
You need a miracle – you call for Neil Wagner.
Photo by Sarah Ansell
We’ve always liked Marlon Samuels. He’s mischievous and funny and his favourite cricketer is Nasser Hussain.
He’s also skilful. In the 2012 World T20 final, Samuels waded into Lasith Malinga as if he were a particularly inviting jacuzzi. He’s made Test hundreds. He’s looked really good in doing so.
But skill and humour seem distant concepts at the moment. He averaged 24 in 2013, 30 in 2014 and 27 in 2015. Being as he’s not allowed to bowl any more, it’s hard to see the point. Marlon Samuels has been metaphorically cut by the thunder and yet the West Indies have had a look around and concluded that they have no choice but to persist with him.
It’s the fielding that should tip the balance though. During the first Test, Samuels’ lackadaisical approach was widely mocked. Almost as if it’s the only entertainment he can bring, he’s taken it up a notch in the second Test, missing the ball and shelling easy catches.
Senior players are important. Senior players can provide guidance. Samuels is halfway down the road to being a laughing stock, coolly beckoning his team-mates to follow him.
We’ll be honest. Sri Lanka were steady-for-one when we got in the shower. We thought we’d timed it well. We hadn’t.
The World Twenty20 final was an odd one. Sri Lankan run-scoring was stymied and they appeared to be waiting for a particular bowler to hit. He never turned up, so Kumar Sangakkara opted to have a go at Sam One, Samuel Badree. When that failed, Sri Lanka suddenly found that they had to have a go at everyone. That failed too.
Compare that to the West Indies’ innings. They reached the frankly outrageous score of 32-2 after 10 overs, at which point Dwayne Bravo hit a six. “Oh yeah, sixes,” said Sam Two, Marlon Samuels, before wading into Lasith Malinga as if he were a particularly inviting jacuzzi.
This was where the match was won. Sri Lanka ran out of bowlers to target and imploded. West Indies also ran out of bowlers to target but somehow eviscerated the man widely considered to be the finest Twenty20 fast bowler around.
Malinga’s second over featured three sixes and went for 21 runs. In all, he conceded 54 off four overs, including 39 off the 11 balls he delivered to Marlon Samuels. Maybe the Jamaican has his bowling machine set at the wrong height or something.
It’s almost impossible to impress people as a batsman these days. The term ‘Twenty20 specialist’ is undoubtedly pejorative, but there’s also a gap on your CV if you’ve only had Test success. It appears that the second coming of Marlon Samuels transcends formats. We already liked him, but cross-format success really is to be admired.
We’ve plenty of admiration for Sam Three, as well – Darren Sammy. He’s the happiest man alive when he loses, so now that he’s captain of a World Twenty20 winning side we should probably find some way of tapping him to extract the joy. He can spare some. He can spare plenty.
We’ve really warmed to Marlon Samuels a short way into a short series. There are three main reasons for this.
Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, his favourite cricketer is Nasser Hussain. Anyone with such an inexplicably unlikely role model is someone to be admired.
Secondly, he’s funny. Jimmy Anderson is easy to annoy, but Samuels did it well. Jimmy was visibly frustrated yesterday and rather than say something bland about this at the close of play, Samuels instead gently prodded the bowler. It was funny, but also fairly friendly. He said he’d been holding back and playing for the team up until now, but once he’d passed 200, he wanted Jimmy to give him a bit more lip – the implication being that he’d really let him have it then.
He also added:
“To be honest, I can’t find too many bowlers that can bowl and talk. I can bat and talk all day.”
And then he told Jimmy he was his favourite bowler.
A third reason to like Marlon Samuels is that he seems keen to play for the West Indies. The team themselves are admirably pragmatic about their missing players, refusing to make excuses. All the same, it’s nice to see Samuels forsaking half his IPL contract in favour of batting at six in a Test series against England.
To a degree, Samuels embodies this Windies side. They’re serious about their cricket, but fun and they’re giving England a proper battle that has already been far more intriguing than a few recent series played out in this country.
Speaking of fun, Darren Sammy never stops smiling, even when his team is losing and a host of experts are saying he’s mediocre and shouldn’t be playing. He probably smiles during surgery. This doesn’t leave him much room for manoeuvre when things go right, but he must have been bloody delighted to make that hundred. On Test Match Special, Michael Vaughan fair roared with glee when he reached three figures and we felt much the same.
Well played, the Sams.