32nd over: Sri Lanka 115-8 (Lakmal 6, Embuldeniya 34) Unlike his supposed superiors, Embuldeniya has a plan. And the plan is: have a mow. He slog-sweeps Leach for four, then thwacks him into the covers for four more. He has faced just 26 balls, the same as his partner Lakmal. The lead is over 150 now. Game on!
31st over: Sri Lanka 106-8 (Lakmal 6, Embuldeniya 25) Bess restores order – a couple of edges, but suddenly they won’t go to hand. Embuldeniya’s cameo has changed the script.
30th over: Sri Lanka 104-8 (Lakmal 5, Embuldeniya 24) Thanks Daniel and hello everyone. Embuldeniya emboldened! He swings Leach for four, bisecting two fielders on the rope, and then he goes the whole slog and hits a straight six. Not content with taking a seven-for, he is now the top scorer in this innings. And he is giving himself something to play with in the fourth innings: the lead is 141.
29th over: Sri Lanka 92-8 (Lakmal 5, Embuldeniya 12) Embuldeniya drives, edging between keeper and slip for four; a single follows.
“Where has the declaration gone from the modern game?” asks Niall Mullen. “Sri Lanka clearly have more than enough runs already but there’s absolutely no sign of them being called in.”
I love that. The match is won and it’s the last of the series, but they’re going to grind England into gristle nonetheless. Hard cricket at its best. Anyhow, that’s it from me – here’s Tim de Lisle to soothe you through what is going to be a deliciously comforting soul-shredder.
28th over: Sri Lanka 87-8 (Lakmal 5, Embuldeniya 7) Sanga reckons that Sri Lanka’s batsmen saw Root’s success with the sweep so decided to deploy their own, without grasping the need to use it at the right time. They also made the fatal error of trying to bat like Root without being Root – let’s be real, we’ve all done it – so here we are. Two singles off the over.
27th over: Sri Lanka 85-8 (Lakmal 4, Embuldeniya 6) It’s a funny thing, this. England’s spinners will now go to India with renewed confidence, which is a good thing. But might this effort persuade Joe Root to trust them prematurely? There’s not a chance Kohli, Rahane and pals turn up into the middle with no apparent plan as to what they might do once they arrive, but in the meantime, a pair of singles precede Embuldeniya driving four through cover.
“I almost don’t know whether to hope for a further rapid fall of Sri Lanka’s last four wickets,” says Brian Withington, “or some evidence that the pitch is still relatively benign. England must channel their inner Essex, who have recently thrived on turning first innings deficits into plucky wins at the home of the raging Day 4 bunsen that is Chelmsfordabad. Not so YJB and ever so YDL to the fore, and no-one run out the skipper!
I feel a Paul Simon lyric stirring …”
26th over: Sri Lanka 79-8 (Lakmal 3, Embuldeniya 1) This has been another performance of extreme shoddiness from Sri Lanka’s batsmen, though England have bowled better than they did in the first innings of the first Test. A flick to mid on gets Embuldeniya off the mark, the only run from the other.
WICKET! Mendis c Buttler b Leach 16 (Sri Lanka 78-8)
Four apiece for the world-famous spin twins! Mendis’ sweep did indeed hit boot but not ground and if anyone was going to spot that, it was Joseph Buttler, first not out then out doing that yesterday. I believe they call that irony – in sport, at least. In real life, they call it a coincidence, but either way Sri Lanka are 115 ahead and they’ll not be adding many more.
25th over: Sri Lanka 78-7 (Mendis 16, Lakmal 3) Bess sees Mendis come forward, sweep, and there’s an appeal for a catch! Not out says the umpire but Buttler requests the review – Root must be off the pitch – and was that boot and out caught? Shirley not!
24th over: Sri Lanka 78-7 (Mendis 16, Lakmal 3) I almost feel like it doesn’t matter what happens in the next bit (I do not feel like it doesn’t matter what happens in the next bit) because if England are going to ruin this, Sri Lanka already have enough runs and they aren’t, then another 50 aren’t going to matter. Two singles off the over.
24th over: Sri Lanka 76-7 (Mendis 15, Lakmal 2) “I’ve just been catching up on the morning’s OBO and stumbled across your link to the Ace song,” says Tom van der Gucht. “It’s one of those tunes that I love, but only seem to remember it on the rare occasions that I stumble across it – before it drifts into the dark recesses of my mind until I randomly hear it again. But on this occasion, I’m adding it straight on Spotify. Since no good music has seemingly been produced since 1995, I’m finding it increasingly challenging to discover new tunes (or old ones I’ve never heard) that are half-decent.”
It seemed to turn up a lot on Capital Radio at the start of the 90s, and I suppose it’s not often played because the band don’t have that much of a cannon. There’s been loads of good gear since 1995 – or Nutty 95, Nutty 9T5 and Nutty 9E5, as my group of school-leaders graffitied all over north London – though I maintain that if Supergrass and Super Furry animals were in their prime now, they’d be the best bands in the world, whereas then, they were well behind some of the greats.
24th over: Sri Lanka 71-7 (Mendis 11, Lakmal 1) Lakmal takes a single then Mendis batters a sweep for four. But what’s this?! Mendis paddles again, misses, and when a top edge goes to short leg, there’s an appeal! Leach thinks it’s out, Buttler knows it’s out, and upstairs we go….
23rd over: Sri Lanka 71-7 (Mendis 11, Lakmal 1) Basically, England are daring themselves to lose from here.
WICKET! Perera D c Crawley b Bess 4 (Sri Lanka 70-7)
Ollie Pope is going to have to fight Crawley for the right to get hit and feel generally terrified, because yerman has taken another fine catch at short leg, staying low again to hang on again when the batsman connects well again. Sri Lanka are in all sorts, the lead just 107, and England are closing in on a series victory! Sort of.
22nd over: Sri Lanka 70-6 (Mendis 11, Perera D 4) Leach continues and after three dots “Don’t just let him bowl” rings around Perera’s swede and he moseys down to carve over cover for two. A single follows.
Right, we’re ready to go again. This is going to be a session.
“Waking up to find Sri Lanka 66 for 6 seems a very good excuse to have Buck’s Fizz with my toast and Marmite,” says Kim Thonger, “but then I remember it’s my friend George Solt’s funeral today. He almost made his century but a peach of a delivery sent him back to the pavilion at 93 and a quarter. Still, a good and entertaining knock, with many fine strokes and importantly, NO sledging. Cheers George, here’s to you.”
As often, we return to Ryan Giggs and surmise that “He’d’ve took it”. And so would we.
“Ruddy Nora,” begins Guy Hornsby. “I did not expect this when my alarm went off. But hands up who is seeing this score and feeling mortal terror about what will happen when we bat? Cricket, you fickle mistress.”
It’s going to be extremely taxing watching, which is absolutely everything we’re after. I can’t wait to feel dreadful.
Lunchtime correspondence: “Anderson really is a freak,” tweets Gary Naylor. “That was a young man’s catch – for 38 year-old eyes to sight that ball out of a clear blue sky all the way into the hands, is quite something.”
And not for a second did we expect him to drop it because he’s not just a phenomenal bowler, he’s a phenomenal athlete and a phenomenal competitor.
Did a pair of England spinners just take three wickets apiece in 17 overs, did someone spike my lemon water, or both?
21st over: Sri Lanka 67-6 (Mendis 11, Perera D 1) Bess and Leach now have three wickets each, off 9 and 8 overs respectively; of course they do. Credit needs to go to Joe Root, who didn’t hang about to see how his pacemen did even though there’s a hint of swing out there … but just as I type that, he fails to hang onto to another edge, this time by Perera, who offers bat to one which doesn’t spin. This time, Root dives left and gets a hand on it, but the ball doesn’t stick. Still, that’s a fantastic morning for England, who now trail by 104. This match and this series are beautifully poised – join me in 40 minutes to find out what happens next, because that is lunch.
WICKET! Dickwella c Lawrence b Bess 7 (Sri Lanka 66-6)
England’s spin twins are dominant! Bess entices Dickwella to drive, and at cover Lawrence hangs on on the half-dive. England have caught really well this morning, and they’re on a roll!
20th over: Sri Lanka 66-5 (Dickwella 7, Mendis 11) No, I’m not sure Ace constitute a rock band either, but here we are. Leach finds some dip and spins one across Mendis, who edges … between slip and gully, past Root’s dive. That was a chance – a difficult one, but nevertheless – and two singles follow. Sri Lanka lead by 103.
19th over: Sri Lanka 60-5 (Dickwella 6, Mendis 6) Mendis takes one into the on side, then Dickwella reverse-sweeps with the spin for four. A single apiece follows.
“‘How Long’ I’ve always found strange,” says Ian Forth. “Great song, but its lead singer Paul Carrack complained that the bass player Terry Comer had been in secret talks with another band, Quiver. And yet, on the video, there’s Terry, singing about his own double-dealing on backing vocals. An oddity.”
Seventies rock bands were unreal.
18th over: Sri Lanka 53-5 (Dickwella 1, Mendis 4) Dickwella sweeps, misses, and just about avoids being bowled. They run two.
REVIEW! NOT OUT!
No bat, and missing the stumps. I’m surprised Root went for that, because only bowler seemed interested.
18th over: Sri Lanka 51-5 (Dickwella 1, Mendis 4) There’s not much batting to come after these two and Sri Lanka will want at least another 80, but that’s a minimum requirement they’ll have hoped to declare when they were happy, which looks a forlorn hope now. Anyhow, after two dots, Dickwella misses with a glance, the ball rears up to short leg and there’s a shout! Not out, says the umpire, and after some deliberation Root reviews!
17th over: Sri Lanka 51-5 (Dickwella 1, Mendis 4) Mendis, also on a pair, shmices a sweep for four – his first runs in Test cricket – then, full of good vibrations, misses with a cut which gives the fielders momentary excitations. The lead is 88.
“Good morning, Daniel,” says Bill Hargreaves. “Wow, this one is getting hotter.”
Yup. However few Sri Lanka are skittled four, they’ll set a nasty little chase that it’ll be our pleasure to watch.
WICKET! Chandimal c Anderson b Leach 9 (Sri Lanka 47-5)
Jimmy Anderson is an absolute freak of nature! Chandimal goes again, slogging across the line and top-edging towards mid on. The ball goes higher than the sun but Anderson has lived, he has tasted, fantastical places, his soul an oasis, and running away from the ball, looking over his shoulder and into the light, he hangs on to an absolute beauty! This is running away from Sri Lanka and fast.
16th over: Sri Lanka 47-4 (Chandimal 9, Dickwella 1) Leach starts well, spiriting a beauty past Chandimal’s late forward press, but his second delivery is muck, short, wide and begging to be battered, so off it goes fo fo through cover. And after a single apiece, Chandimal hurls everything at a flighted one, reaching, stretching, and mullering four over midwicket! His intentions are apparent.
In the last break, this was the ad’s jingle. It elevated my morning.
15th over: Sri Lanka 37-4 (Chandimal 0, Dickwella 0) That really is a huge wicket for England, and while Dickwella surveys the scene, Bairstow reminds him of his unflattering stats – “Forty games, no hundreds”. I’m sure, as a fan of on-pitch mouth – as we all are – he’ll appreciate that, and in response he wonders why Bairstow spent most of the last year dropped. Lovely stuff.
WICKET! Mathews b Bess 5 (Sri Lanka 37-4)
Have a look! Bess executes to perfection, his line and length cramping Mathews who, after three dots, decides he needs to move things along. He gets down on one knee to haul a sweep from outside off, the ball spins, he misses, and the only thing he’s moving along is himself! Interesting! Very interesting!
14th over: Sri Lanka 37-3 (Mathews 5, Chandimal 0) Sri Lanka lead by 74 when the captain takes guard – that’s still a pretty healthy state of affairs for them – and he defends his first ball, the final one of the over.
WICKET! Thirimanne c Crawley b Leach 13 (Sri Lanka 37-3)
This is belting grab from Crawley, who stays low when Thirimanne clips one to short leg – off the meat – and holds on on his way down! That is superb work because it came so quickly, and Sri Lanka are in trouble! England aren’t working them over, but every now and again they do something good and most of the time, it’s yielding a reward!
14th over: Sri Lanka 37-2 (Thirimanne 13, Mathews 5) A single apiece off the first two balls of Leach’s over.
13th over: Sri Lanka 35-2 (Thirimanne 12, Mathews 4) Bess continues with the lead at 70, and Mathews knocks a shortish one into the on side. Bess’ best balls are looking decent this morning, he just needs to keep sending them down, but a wider one allows Thrimanne to get off strike with a shove to cover.
12th over: Sri Lanka 33-2 (Thirimanne 11, Mathews 3) Leach will want to respond to that Bess wicket – there was nothing shamanic about it, he just bowled the right line and the right length at the right pace; easy, right? He’s not quite there yet, three singles coming from the over and taking us into drinks.
“CricViz could do a Result Investment Stat,” says Ian Forth. “How much the average supporter is invested in a win, taking into account historic rivalry, state of series, relative team strengths, etc. Sri Lanka away, having already won one of two, is on the lower end of the scale, I should imagine. The highest ever would have been The Oval 2005.”
How does one calculate such a thing? I think we also need to reckon with the bizarre, terrifying and incredible mentalities of the players, who are equally rabid to win every time – when Sri Lanka won that 2014 series, no less a monster than James Anderson cried on the pitch. I’ve not seen him do that against Australia.
11th over: Sri Lanka 30-2 (Thirimanne 10, Mathews 1) This wicket and the next are the bigguns. Mathews scored a ton in the first innings, as he did when Sri Lanka won at Headingley – to secure the series – in 2014. He has quality and he has timing, turning to mid on to get off the mark.