Cricket musings from watching Sri Lanka play England


So I pretty much wasted the entire Saturday morning watching the third day of the Test match between England and Sri Lanka. These Test matches are the classic international form of the game, lasting five days, with each side getting two innings. It is more leisurely than the more recent innovations in which each side bats just once for a limited number of overs (50 for a one-day game and 20 for the three-hour version) and where a decision is guaranteed. (For those who have no idea what cricket is about, please see the primer that I wrote back in 2006.)

As somewhat of a cricket traditionalist, I enjoyed watching this game, with all the players dressed in white, the cricket ball being red, and the game played in daylight at the famous Lord’s cricket ground in London, considered the ancestral home of the game. While watching it, I realized that my pleasure came from seeing the game played well and from the nuances, rather than from thoughts of who was winning and losing. In particular, it was nice to see two of the long-time stalwarts of the Sri Lankan side Mahela Jayewardene and Kumar Sangakkara, now in the twilight of their careers. The former is the more stylish of the two but yesterday he struggled to score 55 showing the grit and tenacity that distinguishes great players on days when their touch is absent. Sangakkara, who has had a difficult time scoring runs in England, had a great day, scoring 147 in grand style,

I had worried that the shorter forms of the game that have become so popular and which encourage the rapid scoring of runs at the expense of style may have corrupted the long-form of the game. But this game did not show it. Both sides batted well and did not play the ugly shots and take the kinds of excessive risks that one finds in the short form. However, the effects of the short form can be seen in that the scoring rate in Test matches is now greater than it used to be when I was a boy, and that is a good thing.

As for the game itself, England batted first and in their first innings scored 575 runs, lasting for about a day and a half. This is an excellent, even overwhelming, score and a side that does this rarely loses unless they fail spectacularly in the second innings. In response, Sri Lanka batted the rest of the second day and all of the third day and had scored 415 runs by the end of the day and still have three more wickets (‘outs’) in hand. A score of 450 seems likely, leaving England with a lead of about 125 runs.

Since the game is time-limited to last just for five days, it seems like there will not be enough time in the remaining two days for England and Sri Lanka to each complete a second innings in less than two days. Thus a no-decision (or ‘draw’ in cricket parlance) is the most likely outcome. But what could happen is that England in their second innings scores runs as quickly as possible and then their captain unilaterally calls the innings to be ended before all their batsmen are out, and asks Sri Lanka to bat again with the hope that they can get the Sri Lankans out in the remaining time. This requires a careful calculation on the England captain’s part, because he needs to give Sri Lanka a realistic run target with enough time remaining to hope that they can win so that they take chances to try and score runs and thus get out, while not making it too easy either.

An even more daring action to get a result would be for the Sri Lankan captain to declare their first innings ended early today, even though they are behind in runs, in order to enable England to have enough time to score runs to make their declaration. We’ll have to see tomorrow if the Sri Lankan captain chooses that route. This kind of strategy is something one only finds in this time-limited form of the game

So basically I repeated the kind of lazy Saturday of my youth, wasting time watching cricket, except I did it on a computer rather than going to the cricket grounds. I am going to try and repeat it today.

Comments

  1. Al Dente says

    I did it on a computer rather than going to the cricket grounds

    But if you aren’t at the cricket grounds then you can’t participate in Tea Time, when the spectators drink massive amounts of beer. Drinking beer by yourself at the computer isn’t the same thing. And if I remember correctly you don’t drink alcohol so you’re denying yourself two pleasures.

  2. Rob Grigjanis says

    Soccer musings curses from watching England play Italy; damn you, Pirlo, you magnificent bastard!

  3. says

    “Waste of time” infers a purposeless lack of enjoyment. That doesn’t sound like the right phrase here.

    Most North American sports fans wouldn’t be willing to sit though a multi-day sporting event except for auto racing (e.g. the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona), and those are only annual events, unlike traditional cricket matches. It’s only every few years that a baseball game goes to 20 innings, and the NHL only has extended overtime in the playoffs (the five hour game on Friday 6/14). Games like that are rare, so they end up becoming classics talked about for years.

    My parents were British ex-pats I grew up with English comics and annuals. I knew and had read about multi-day cricket matches, but never understood the game nor the appeal. Then again, most people don’t get the appeal of hockey or motorsports. But as long as people are enjoying their sport of choice, more power to them.

  4. John Morales says

    As the game proceeds, the pitch tends to deteriorate in condition and thus tends to make scoring more difficult.

  5. csrster says

    It should be a fascinating final day’s play. Should England have declared yesterday evening? Perhaps, but it was never likely with Cook as captain.

    You and I are old enough to remember when Sri Lanka were first admitted to full international cricket in 1981. At that time it might have seemed like a risky or slightly charitable act. No one could say that now, as Sri Lanka have now been consistently one of the most exciting teams in all forms of the game for years. I’m disappointed that they are only playing two tests in England this summer while India are playing five.

  6. Mano Singham says

    @crster,

    Yes, I remember those days and even earlier when the Sri Lankan cricket team served as pretty much a punching bag for the other international cricket teams. It takes a while for a team to get the hang of playing in the big leagues and people should be patient with the newbies.

  7. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    In the 1996 World Cup I backed Sri Lanka to win at 64 to !. Unfortunately I only put £1 on them…
    I’ve been kicking myself ever since.

  8. Mano Singham says

    @Reginald,

    That’s great! Thanks so much for the link. I have never seen this before. A. A. Milne has also written amusingly about his own experiences with playing cricket.

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