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.
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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.
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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.
115th over: England 411-9 (Root 226, Broad 3) Broad gets off the mark with a sweep for two. He had a good time with the bat last year – his average of 36 was his highest in a calendar year since 2011 – and he can tee off with impunity here. England lead by 276. Enough already.
“John Starbuck may be right about restoring the norm by feeding the cat, but the cat is now asleep,” reports Andrew in the Canary Islands. “She’ll undoubtedly complain about being woken up when I change the bedding later (it’s 6am, I’m not doing it yet).”
114th over: England 406-9 (Root 224, Broad 0) Since the ball was changed, England have lost five wickets for 34. In happier news, this is only the second time they have scored 400 in a Test in Sri Lanka. The first was in 2012, when Kevin Pietersen went berserk.
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WICKET! England 406-9 (Wood c Dickwella b Perera 2)
A quick break between overs includes an advert for Numan: “Order clinically proven erectile dysfunction treatment from the comfort of your own home.” Targeted advertising par excellence.
Meanwhile, Mark Wood has gone for two. He toe-ended a sweep straight up in the air, and Dickwella helped himself to an easy catch.
113th over: England 403-8 (Root 223, Wood 0) Root, on the walk, survives a decent LBW shout from Shanaka. Sri Lanka have no reviews remaining, though replays show he was outside the line anyway. A princely flick through midwicket for four takes Root to 222 – we miss you, Richie – and he works another single off the next delivery.
WICKET! England 398-8 (Leach LBW b Perera 4)
Leach has gone this time. He played defensively across the line of a big offbreak from the new bowler Perera and was hit just above the flap of the pad. Kumar Dharmasena gave it out and, though Leach reviewed, replays showed it was hitting the top of middle stump. It was a guilt-free review from Leach, because England had three remaining. Now they have two.
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111th over: England 397-7 (Root 217, Leach 4) The medium-pacer Dasun Shanaka replaces Fernando, who bowled a fine spell of 4-1-10-2. His fifth ball brings a review for caught behind against Jack Leach, who leaned into an expansive drive. Niroshan Dickwella was certain it was out – he usually is – but there was nothing on UltraEdge and Leach survived. Sri Lanka have used up their reviews.
110th over: England 396-7 (Root 215, Leach 4) Leach gets off the mark from his 12th delivery, sweeping Embuldeniya vigorously for four. England’s lead is an extremely healthy 261.
109th over: England 391-7 (Root 215, Leach 0) Root pulls Fernando smoothly round the corner for his 17th four. As Ian Ward says on Sky, he has “made batting look supremely easy”. When he bats like this, with such class, serenity and authority, it feels absurd that he failed to score a Test hundred in 2020. And he really looks like he’s enjoying himself, which hasn’t always the case in recent years.
“Rob,” says John Starbuck. “Feeding a cat after it’s vomited is simply a way of restoring the norm. Our cat, Beaumont, is usually first fed by my wife who tends to rise early. When I fed him today he simply didn’t believe it. I don’t think he really appreciates cricket.”
108th over: England 384-7 (Root 208, Leach 0) Root had a great first summer as England captain, when he scored hundreds of runs against South Africa and West Indies. But since then he has been much more prolific away from home. In the last three years – since the end of the 2017-18 Ashes – he averages 34 in England and 50 overseas. That’s partly down to conditions, but I suspect there’s a bit more to it than that. The captaincy weighs more heavily at home.
107th over: England 383-7 (Root 207, Leach 0) The new batsman Leach is beaten by another good delivery from Fernando, which zips off the pitch from a length.
“Hi Rob,” says Andrew in the Canary Islands. “My cat just woke me up by vomiting on the bed. Not the best way to enter the weekend, but I did get to tune in and immediately see three wickets and Root reach his double ton. The cat is now wiping its face on my arm, and wants fed.”
Is feeding it (I respect its privacy) really a good idea?
106th over: England 382-7 (Root 206, Leach 0) Well that was an eventful over. The Root LBW appeal was pretty close, though I suspect he was just outside the line. I did Bess a slight disservice: when he knew there was going to be a run out, he sprinted past Root to ensure he would be the man to go.
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WICKET! England 382-7 (Bess run out 0)
Dom Bess has been run out for a duck. Root was the subject of a big LBW appeal from Embuldeniya after missing a paddle sweep, and set off in an attempt to distract the umpire Kumar Dharmasena. Bess didn’t get the memo and was left stranded when Root kept running.
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A DOUBLE HUNDRED FOR JOE ROOT!
105.5 overs: England 382-6 (Root 206, Bess 0) Root slog-sweeps Embuldeniya for four to reach a marvellous double hundred: 291 balls, 15 fours and one six. It’s his fourth in Tests, which takes him joint third on the all-time England list behind Wally Hammond and Sir Alastair Cook, and his second against Sri Lanka.
Root repeats the stroke next ball, hammering another sweep for four, and then paddles a couple more. He has swept so often in this innings, and he’s played the shot almost flawlessly.
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105th over: England 372-6 (Root 196, Bess 0) Bess blocks the hat-trick ball, another potential stump-buster. That was a spectacular over from Fernando, a double-wicket maiden.
WICKET! England 372-6 (Curran b Fernando 0)
Bowled him! Sam Curran has gone first ball, cleaned up by a full, straight inducker. That was another cracking delivery from Fernando, who is suddenly on a hat-trick.
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WICKET! England 372-5 (Buttler c Dickwella b Fernando 30)
The ball is out of shape, so there’s a brief delay while it is changed – and Buttler falls to the first delivery with the new one! It was a fine piece of bowling from Fernando: full, a tight line and just enough movement to take the edge as Buttler lunged into a drive. The keeper Niroshan Dickwella did the rest.
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104th over: England 372-4 (Root 196, Buttler 30) Root, on the walk, inside edges Perera through the vacant leg-gully area. A single takes him into the 190s, and later in the over he clouts Perera back over his head for six. Shot!
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103rd over: England 364-4 (Root 189, Buttler 29) Asitha Fernando returns in place of Embuldeniya. He has a slip and a gully but nobody else around the bat. Buttler squirts a drive to deep backward point for a single, and then Root steers past gully for one.
102nd over: England 362-4 (Root 188, Buttler 28) England have scored at almost a run a ball this morning. I was going to do they’ve done so without breaking sweat, but that’s clearly not the case in this humidity. There are even unconfirmed rumours that Sir Alastair Cook once perspired in Sri Lanka.
101st over: England 359-4 (Root 187, Buttler 26) The groundstaff are preparing the covers, which is a wee bit irritating. While we wait for the rain, Buttler hits Embuldeniya for consecutive boundaries. The first was a well placed reverse sweep off a full toss, the second a dismissive cart over midwicket when Embuldeniya overcompensated and dropped short. That brings up the fifty partnership. Root completes a terrific over – 13 from it – with a lovely sweep for four. This really has been a majestic innings.
100th over: England 346-4 (Root 183, Buttler 17) Four low-risk singles from Perera’s over. After a difficult start to his innings, Buttler is looking a bit more comfortable.
99th over: England 342-4 (Root 181, Buttler 15) One of the interesting things about Root’s innings is that he has hit only 13 fours in a score of 181; that’s less than 30 per cent of his runs in boundaries. Contrast that with his aggressive 124 in Pallekele on the previous tour, when 42 per cent of his runs came from boundaries. This has been a really methodical innings, similar in many ways to his career-best 254 against Pakistan in 2016.
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98th over: England 338-4 (Root 178, Buttler 14) Perera, bowling round the wicket, gets one to rip sharply back into Root. Perera goes up for LBW but it was too high. Unless it rains for the best part of two days, it’s hard to see how Sri Lanka can save the game on this pitch.
97th over: England 337-4 (Root 178, Buttler 13) Embuldeniya replaces Fernando after one over. A pair of twos take Root to the mighty milestone of 8000 Test runs. He’s the seventh Englishman to achieve the feat; if all goes well, by the end of 2021 he will be only the second Englishman to score 9000 Test runs.
“Good morning/evening from abnormally not snowy Montreal Rob,” says Jesse Linklater. “How’s the forecast looking for Galle? Talk yesterday of two of the next three days being rain-reduced. Declaration coming before lunch?”
The forecast is for heavy showers later, though it’s not clear whether that refers to the elements or the Sri Lankan batting. I’d expect to England to declare at some stage, though not before lunch.
96th over: England 330-4 (Root 173, Buttler 12) Jos Buttler gets going with a reverse sweep for four off Dilruwan Perera. This pitch is turning appreciably now, so England are in a ludicrously. Incidentally, if you’re into the whole podcast thing, Buttler was predictably brilliant on this week’s episode of Don’t Tell Me The Score. Eff it, why not have a listen?
“Morning Rob,” says Dave Adams. “Great to see Test cricket right now. Up at this hour courtesy of third nocturnal child in a row. Do I subconsciously want them to wake in the night so I can watch it?”
Come on Dave, setting off a car alarm by their cot at 4am has nothing to do with your subconscious.
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95th over: England 324-4 (Root 172, Buttler 7) Asita Fernando opens the bowling to Joe Root, who moves into the 170s with a pristine cover drive for four. He’s been both stylish and clinical in this innings; you can’t ask for much more.
Hello. Here’s how it usually works in Galle: the team that wins the toss bats first and wins the match. Nice job everyone, thanks for coming. On a pitch that deteriorates like no other in world cricket, batting second is a huge disadvantage – and one that, for touring teams in particular, has been almost impossible to overcome.
The away side has won only two of the 21 Galle Tests in which they have fielded first. Pakistan were the victors on both occasions, in 2000 and 2015. Since then, India, Australia, South Africa, West Indies and Bangladesh have all lost the toss and then the match.
This hardcore statistical evidence makes England’s position in this match even more impressive. Despite losing an important toss they will resume on 320 for four, a lead of 185, and there are plenty who feel they could declare now and still win by an innings.
Sure, they were helped by a wretched batting performance from Sri Lanka, but it feels so tediously English to appraise a potential victory by focussing on what the opposition did wrong. Sri Lanka’s batting is only one of the reasons England are on top; the list includes some whipsmart bowling from Stuart Broad, fine innings from Jonny Bairstow and Dan Lawrence – and, most of all, an unobtrusive masterclass in playing spin from Joe Root.
He resumes on 168 not out, 32 away from a fourth double hundred. Only Wally Hammond, Sir Alastair Cook and Sir Len Hutton have made as many for England. But what he really, really wants is another Test victory. If England win here it’ll be their fourth consecutive away win, following three in South Africa at the start of last year. The last time England won four Tests in a row away from home was between 1955-57. Bumble wasn’t even a teenager!
South Africa and Sri Lanka are not India and Australia, it’s true. But if England are on course to achieve something for the first time in 64 years, they must be doing a few things right.
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