CRICKET / Visitor’s top-order gets going on a dead track; rain washes out final session
Fernando is sure to miss the Galle game
Mubarak has made just 18 runs in three innings
COLOMBO: The pitch at the Sinhalese Sports Club is a travesty, a curse from another age, an invitation to any captain to play for a draw and totally out of character in an era when draws are rarer than peace-loving politicians. One day perhaps it will be ripped up and a proper pitch prepared on which bowlers can expect to get results. Let’s face it if Muttiah Muralitharan cannot bowl more than one batsman out on the fifth day there must be something far wrong.
Michael Vaughan stood in the rain that completed the England fightback by stopping play after tea when a draw was already the only result and said it was the most comfortable draw of his 20 in 72 Tests with England stretching back to 1999. Conditions were conducive to batting on all five days, he said.
The only bowler who can be congratulated is England’s swing merchant Matthew Hoggard who found a back injury at just the right moment. He expects to be back at Galle where as a result of the tsunami three years ago the pitch is sure to be an offence to anyone using a bat and where the third and final Test is likely to be over soon after it starts.
Even though Vaughan, who looks to be in the form that gave him three centuries in Australia in the 2002-03 Ashes series, managed to get out caught and bowled to the injured paceman Dilhara Fernando, and where Alastair Cook was caught off Chamara Silva, a modest bowler with much to be modest about.
Ian Bell was out — Murali’s only success in 27 overs — to a half hearted shot so that he has again thrown away the chance to prove he can notch up an important score in a key game after an impressive start.
By the time the storms came England had a lead of 53, Murali’s grin of triumph had become more artificial by the over and the Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene was ready to admit that he batted so long on the fourth day because he thought the match was heading for draw.
Did he care? Probably not since a 1-0 lead in a three-Test series is a guarantee for a good night’s sleep for any Test skipper.
Time to recall Dilshan
His players will not all drift off to dreamland so easily.
Fernando is due for a knee operation before Christmas which means he is sure to miss the Galle game and unless the selectors replace the huge Jehan Mubarak with that Tillakaratne Dilshan in Galle, 500 letter writers to the local newspapers will have heart attacks. So far Mubarak has made 18 runs in three innings and bowled a single over which may be why I have seen Vaughan shake his hand in a most jovial fashion more than once.
England will toy with the idea of playing Graeme Swann, its second spinner in Galle, but it will probably be a step too adventurous for a country brought up to believe that three seamers are an essential base to every good team. It would sooner open the batting with Monty Panesar and Monty Python than risk the ridicule that would come from every corner of county cricket if it lost while fielding two spinners.
Still who is to say England is wrong when it can draw a match like this played on a pitch built for the home side. Although even the Sri Lankans will agree there is nothing wrong with it that could not be put right by a plough and a ton of explosive.