36th over: Sri Lanka 93-0 (K Perera 56, Thirimanne 36) Thirimanne takes a sharp single, the throw comes into the keeper’s end and it hits Perera on the leg. England are hell-bent on sending him to hospital, one way or another, but again he grits his teeth, or bites them together as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said of his players at Burnley the other night.
The players are back out there, including the impregnable Perera, and it looks as if Sam Curran is going to have a bowl. So far in this match he hasn’t taken a wicket, or scored a run, but he always has it in him to make something happen.
Tea: Sri Lanka’s openers still there
35th over: Sri Lanka 90-0 (K Perera 55, Thirimanne 34) Perera cuts Bess for two, blocks the rest of the over, and makes it to tea. The session belongs firmly to Sri Lanka, who have shown the grit they so conspicuously lacked in the first innings. In fact, they’ve ruled the day so far, but thanks to Joe Root’s mastery, they’re still in a hole. See you in 15 minutes.
34th over: Sri Lanka 88-0 (K Perera 53, Thirimanne 34) Wood is ruthless enough to keep banging it in to Perera, but Root isn’t ruthless enough to post a short leg, and Perera is capable enough to fend the ball off for a single and a breather.
Meanwhile, the camera noses into the England dressing-room and spots the familiar silhouette of Moeen Ali, released from solitary confinement after going down with the damned virus. “He came out of quarantine an hour ago,” Mike Atherton reports. “And came straight to the ground, as you would if you’d been in isolation for two weeks.”
33rd over: Sri Lanka 87-0 (K Perera 52, Thirimanne 34) A quiet over from Bess ends with Perera getting yet more strapping on his hand. His right arm is half man, half mummy.
“Hello Tim from a very damp Sussex,” says James Evans. “Can’t help thinking that a leg-spinner would be more useful here than Mark Wood. Where’s Ian Salisbury when you need him?” Ha. I suspect he’s in a very damp Sussex. By the way, this email came in before Wood produced that snorter, which showed exactly why he’s there.
32nd over: Sri Lanka 83-0 (K Perera 51, Thirimanne 32) Perera pulls Wood again to reach an assured fifty, just what Mickey Arthur ordered. But then he gets a brute of a bouncer – how does Wood do it, on this slow pitch? – which hits him on the top of his hand. As Mike Atherton says, that’s like the blow Graham Gooch took from Ezra Moseley in Port-of-Spain in 1990. I was there and even the old lags in the press box winced. Perera whips off his glove, walks around, studies the damage and gets some spray from the physio, who follows up with some heavy strapping. The next ball is short but not vicious, and calmly worked off his hip for a single. Test cricket is a test of character, and Perera just passed.
31st over: Sri Lanka 79-0 (K Perera 49, Thirimanne 29) Root takes himself off, with figures of 6-0-10-0 and a couple of moral victories, and brings back his other off-spinner, Bess. Thirimanne sweeps him for four, only his second boundary from 96 balls.
30th over: Sri Lanka 74-0 (K Perera 48, Thirimanne 25) Root agrees that it’s time for seam, but he plumps for the pace of Wood rather than the pique of Broad. The field is interesting – slip, gully, leg gully and a deepish short leg. When Wood tries a bouncer, Perera bypasses the last two of them by playing a textbook pull to deep square’s right.
“As to snow,” says Ralph Jennings, “we have had plenty here in Finland. Snowing for the last three days. It’s warmer today at -18, thank goodness, as yesterday’s -27 was a bit parky.” Oof. “Later today I’m off to skate on the local frozen lake and trust me with 184,000 lakes in Finland everyone has a local lake. Regards and come on England.” Nice factoid there. If the Beatles had known about it, we might never have heard about the 4,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire.
29th over: Sri Lanka 68-0 (K Perera 43, Thirimanne 24) Another beauty from Root – in the channel again but fuller, almost yorker length, and spinning past Perera’s outside edge. Buttler appeals but doesn’t press for a review.
28th over: Sri Lanka 67-0 (K Perera 43, Thirimanne 23) Perera finds the gap at mid-off with a push for three and Leach is leaking runs again. England can afford it but it’s a sign that Leach, good though he was in the first innings, has a fair amount of rust to shake off.
27th over: Sri Lanka 62-0 (K Perera 40, Thirimanne 21) Root continues to ask questions, luring Thirimanne into a sweep that ends in a play-and-miss and a bye. If he carries on like this, Root can be the spinner in the Ashes and have Jos Buttler coming in at No.8.
Here’s Harry Lang. “Hope you’re keeping well. Typing in from a very damp Earlsfield (south west London). Great to see Root mastering the perfect sweep (square root?) and some youngsters showing such promise. I had a thought (may have been a dream – lockdown insomnia is a confusing mistress) – has any team in the modern age gone full Moneyball on their selection policy? Using A.I. rather than suggested form to pick teams based on conditions, opponents, wicket and other such factors? Would be fun to see a random selection from the lower leagues dropped in just because a computer says so (and then have them absolutely nail it).Thanks as ever for the OBO for those of us too tight to line Sky’s pockets.” Pleasure. And that’s a great point.
26th over: Sri Lanka 60-0 (K Perera 39, Thirimanne 21) After that flurry of strokes, Leach retires order. He has none for 24 from seven overs. Time for some seam, I would have thought. Stuart Broad must be hatching a plan, and may well be bearing a grudge after being left high and dry by Root when he was just getting going.
“Good morning Tim,” says Simon McMahon, “I hope you are well.” I am, thank you, touch wood. “Icy cold with sleet and snow showers here on the east coast of Scotland. Given that it’s a Saturday, and everyone’s at home anyway, I was a bit surprised to be woken up by a machine clearing the pavements at 7am. Still, a good excuse, as if you need one, to follow the cricket. Surely only the weather can save Sri Lanka. There’s no snow forecast in Galle, is there?” Ha. They are expecting rain, but it’s holding off for now.
25th over: Sri Lanka 58-0 (K Perera 38, Thirimanne 20) No such liberties are taken with Root.
24th over: Sri Lanka 57-0 (K Perera 38, Thirimanne 19) Perera charges Leach again, and this time he does bring out the big shot, lofting over long-on for six. Next ball, he sweeps hard for four. And that’s the fifty partnership, Sri Lanka’s second one of the match. England managed three – the difference was that two of them went past a hundred, 114 by Root and Bairstow, and 173 by Root and Lawrence, adding up to 287. Those stands account for England’s lead on first innings – 286. Sri Lanka simply have to turn this one into a big one.
23rd over: Sri Lanka 45-0 (K Perera 27, Thirimanne 18) Just a couple of singles off Root, who has 3-0-7-0 and has performed like a proper bowler.
22nd over: Sri Lanka 43-0 (K Perera 26, Thirimanne 17) Perera gives Leach the charge and … nurdles a single. The footwork was lovely, stealthy, supple, a real dance down the track, and he kept his head when he saw that the ball wasn’t quite there for the big heave. When a harder shot is played, Jonny Bairstow, who took a nasty blow on the ankle at short leg in the first innings, gets one in the knee.
21st over: Sri Lanka 41-0 (K Perera 24, Thirimanne 17) Root beats Thirimanne with a ball straight out of the MCC coaching manual – pitching on off, turning so sharply that it was heading for slip.
“Following from the north of Luxembourg,” says Paul Townend. “And we are buried under piles of soft snow. So glad for Joe!” That’s great. Sri Lanka are doing their best not to be buried under piles of soft Joe.
20th over: Sri Lanka 40-0 (K Perera 23, Thirimanne 17) Jack Leach is back, changing ends, as Mark Butcher (who is actually in Galle) has been demanding. The rough doesn’t drum up anything dramatic but it’s a tidy over. For Leach, this game is partly about getting back into the groove.
19th over: Sri Lanka 39-0 (K Perera 22, Thirimanne 17) Joe Root needs to shake things up, so he sends for his third spinner: himself. He’s an off-spinner like Bess, but quicker. That brings runs – 2, 1, 2 – but also a thick outside edge as Thirimanne squirts through the vacant gully. If Root is going to bowl himself, he needs to back himself too, with the attacking fields that his runs have enabled.
18th over: Sri Lanka 34-0 (K Perera 19, Thirimanne 15) Bess resumes with a full toss, but then finds his length and turn one past the outside edge. That’s a maiden.
Thanks Rob and morning everyone from north London, which is waking up to a faceful of sleet, when we were promised snow. if you’re writing in, do say where you are and what the weather’s like.
17th over: Sri Lanka 34-0 (K Perera 19, Thirimanne 15) Perera mows a full ball back towards Leach, who does well to field it in his follow through. The next ball kicks from the pitch and is gloved not far wide of Sibley at leg slip. Leach has started pretty well.
16th over: Sri Lanka 32-0 (K Perera 18, Thirimanne 14) Bess’s length still isn’t quite right. Nothing much is happening, so it won’t be a surprise if Joe Root switches the spinners round, or brings himself on for a few overs.
15th over: Sri Lanka 30-0 (K Perera 17, Thirimanne 13) The Sky commentators think England have their spinners at the wrong end, as there are big rough patches outside the left hander’s off stump that Leach could bowl into if he switched. For now Sri Lanka are defending relatively comfortably, though England know that this is the kind of pitch on which one wicket can bring three.
14th over: Sri Lanka 27-0 (K Perera 16, Thirimanne 11) “Morning from freezing Sale, Rob,” says Guy Hornsby. “I’m with Luke Regan here. For all our batting and pace bowling options we do (as always) seem thinner for spinners. I like Leach a lot, and feel he’s had a bit of a tough deal such is England’s penchant for bits and pieces bowlers. Bess is a big prospect, who can definitely bat, but he’s learning his trade on the job and you worry he’ll suffer from that at some point. I dearly hope Mo comes back well and is handled well too, because who else is there?”
I like Amar Virdi, though it probably wouldn’t be right to parachute him into an Ashes series in Australia. Moeen has a mental block against Australia with bat and ball, so I would leave him out of the squad unless he makes an irresistible case this year, but I suspect England will be seduced by his potential. Finger spinners are often marmalised in Australia, especially English ones, and I would fear for Bess at this stage of his development. Leach is probably the most likely to bowl first-innings spells of 25-4-70-2.
13th over: Sri Lanka 26-0 (K Perera 16, Thirimanne 10) Jack Leach replaces Mark Wood. He bowled well in the first innings, even though he only took one wicket. He goes around the wicket to Perera, with a slip, leg gully and short square leg. It’s an accurate start from Leach, and Perera continues to defend responsibly. He has 16 from 45 balls, which is slow going for a man with a Test strike rate of 74.
12th over: Sri Lanka 25-0 (K Perera 16, Thirimanne 9) An arm ball from Bess is inside-edged onto the pad by Perera, with the ball landing safely on the off side. A silly point comes in, so Perera waves a single to get down the other end. Bess has been too short at times in this spell, a recurring problem.
11th over: Sri Lanka 23-0 (K Perera 15, Thirimanne 8) “Morning Rob, morning everyone,” says Luke Regan. “Hard to describe to a non-cricket fan the odd frisson of excitement checking the overnight England sub-continent score first thing. It’s like an absurd Xmas morning for the middle-aged, where Santa may have delivered everything you wanted but equally could have delivered nothing and taken all your stuff. Anyway, Bess, Leach or a leg-spinner for the Ashes? It’s the one area we seem under-powered and unless one of those two have the year of their lives, we might have missed a trick not gambling on Rashid’s shoulder and resting him in ODIs. He’s the only English spinner with the x-factor.”
I think it will be Moeen. I’m not sure who it should be, probably Leach as he’s the most reliable. I don’t think Rashid’s heart is in it, even if his shoulder was up to it.
10th over: Sri Lanka 21-0 (K Perera 14, Thirimanne 7) A maiden from Bess to the unusually watchful Kusal Perera.
9th over: Sri Lanka 21-0 (K Perera 14, Thirimanne 7) A double bowling change, with Mark Wood coming on for Stuart Broad. He goes over the wicket to Thirimanne, who pings a straight ball sweetly through midwicket for four. That was a lovely shot, played with barely a follow through.
“In answer to your kind enquiry, Rob, Toby is fine since vomiting up the tablets all over the sofa in the study,” says Ian Forth. “He is smugly licking his paws as I type, with nothing to be smug about, in my opinion.”
8th over: Sri Lanka 16-0 (K Perera 13, Thirimanne 3) With two left-handers at the crease, Dom Bess comes on for an early bowl. He starts with a few shorter deliveries, which allows the batsmen to take three low-risk deliveres, but the last two balls of the over are right on the money. Encouragingly for England, one turns a long way and the other goes straight on,
7th over: Sri Lanka 13-0 (K Perera 11, Thirimanne 2) Broad looks shattered already, such is the heat, so this over will be the last of his spell unless he takes a wicket. Thirimanne ensures he doesn’t with some diligent defence. Another excellent little spell from Broad: 4-3-2-0.
6th over: Sri Lanka 13-0 (K Perera 11, Thirimanne 2) Perera forces Curran through the vacant gully area for four. It went at catchable height, too, and the Sky commentators can’t understand why England don’t have a gully. The next ball is slightly too wide, which allows Perera to free his arms and spank it to the cover boundary. Curran responds with a good delivery that pops from a length to beat Perera.
“Over the years my cocker spaniel Toby has eaten a wide variety of nonsense (earphones, quite a lot of a Mona Lisa jigsaw, my Sebadoh Bakesale CD) but last night diversified for the first time into pharmaceuticals,” says Ian Forth. “He got into the antibiotics for my toothache, despite the fact they were wrapped in one of those silver foil vacuum seals humans need a chainsaw to open. Nice variation on ‘the dog ate my homework’ when I phoned the dentist for a repeat prescription this morning.”
Never mind your excruciating pain, how’s Toby?
5th over: Sri Lanka 5-0 (K Perera 3, Thirimanne 2) Broad is bowling around the wicket to Perera and over the wicket to Thirimanne, who survives an LBW appeal to a ball that pitched just outside leg. There might have been an inside edge as well. But he looks nervous, Thirimanne, and clips the next ball just short of the diving Lawrence at short midwicket.
4th over: Sri Lanka 5-0 (K Perera 3, Thirimanne 2) The early signs are that Sri Lanka intend to block their way out of trouble. Thirimanne takes a single and is hit on the arm by a loose throw from Bess. That’s about it for Curran’s second over; he’s finding a little bit of swing but nothing particuarly troublesome for the batsmen.
3rd over: Sri Lanka 4-0 (K Perera 3, Thirimanne 1) Perera doesn’t look comfortable against Broad, who is bowling very straight from around the wicket. A thick edge squirts along the floor to point, the most notable event of an excellent maiden from Broad.
2nd over: Sri Lanka 4-0 (K Perera 3, Thirimanne 1) Sam Curran shares the new ball. He’s had a quiet game so far, just four wicketless overs and a golden duck. Thirimanne, who is aiming to improve on a desperate record against England, works a straight one off the pads to get off the mark.
1st over: Sri Lanka 2-0 (K Perera 2, Thirimanne 0) Stuart Broad goes straight around the wicket to Kusal Perera, with two slips and a man on the drive. His second ball takes a leading edge and loops over the vacant gully region for a couple. It’s a very accurate first over from Broad, who has bowled beautifully in this game.
“Morning Rob,” says Daniel Lees. “Andrew in the Canary Islands should get a dog: mine, Teddy, woke me up (I think he just knew what I wanted) allowing me to sneak downstairs quietly for a few hours of cricket while the family sleeps. Teddy, however, cannot find me a working radio stream here in France to allow me to listen while in a doctor’s waiting room for two hours later on this morning: can anyone help me out, in exchange for this dog?”
Kumar Sangakkara on Joe Root’s innings “For sheer control, finesse and the ease of batting, without a doubt it belongs on the list [of the greatest innings by a visiting batsman in Sri Lanka]. It was beautiful to watch him; he was very adept, not just at defence but also in terms of attack, especially using the sweep so well to put the bowlers off their length. In Test match cricket, forget the boundaries, the key is to reverse pressure smartly and to rotate strike. There was never a moment that Joe Root got stuck for too long at one end. It was an absolute masterclass.”
England collapsed at the end of the innings, losing their last six wickets for 49. But the bigger picture is that they lead by 286 and are well set to win their fourth consecutive Test away from home.
WICKET! England 421 all out (Root c Embuldeniya b Perera 228)
Joe Root drags Perera to cow corner to end majestic innings. He made 228 from 321 balls on an awkward pitch, at a strike rate of 71, yet he barely seemed to take a risk. It was a masterpiece.
117th over: England 421-9 (Root 228, Broad 11) Asitha Fernando returns to the attack. That change of pace is good for Broad, who smears consecutive short balls for for four – the first was pinged round the corner, the second top-edged over the keeper’s head.
116th over: England 412-9 (Root 227, Broad 3) Stuart Broad is given out LBW to Perera twice in the space of three balls – but he reviews them both successfully. The first was missing leg, the second missing off. In defence of the umpire Kumar Dharmasena, the first one was almost certainly out. But because the ball hit Broad’s boot on the full, Hawkeye had to track the original angle rather than take into account the probable turn.