Failing bats are bigger issue than lizards on pitch


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The Independent Online

A snake was reported somewhere around the boundary and a two-foot-long lizard held up play by encroaching on the ground yesterday. If it goes on like this, England may have to add David Attenborough to their backroom staff.

The snake kept himself to himself, curled up in a drain on the perimeter. The lizard wanted the world to see him, though it was hard to know who was more frightened: the creature, probably not of the man-eating variety from the nervousness of his disposition, or the players shooing him off.

Nor was that as exciting as it got on the second day of the final tour match between a Sri Lanka Development XI and England. The tourists' captain, Andrew Strauss, was in dire need of runs and duly made 100. So did Jonathan Trott, whose shortage has not been quite as acute but who has found them in reduced supply since becoming world player of the year.

Short supply was again the case for Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell, both of whom have had moderate winters in white-clothes cricket. Hardly had Strauss and Trott hit three figures and retired out, as is the modern way, than Pietersen and Bell had their innings more conventionally terminated.

While the temporary opening pair – Alastair Cook has been given the match off – never looked like getting out, Bell and Pietersen could hardly help themselves. Bell clipped an innocuous delivery to short midwicket and Pietersen was stumped against the left arm of Sajeewa Weerakoon, an all-too familiar type of nemesis.

All this may count for nought when the mini-Test series against Sri Lanka starts on Monday. Easy runs, or the lack of them against a benevolent attack on a still more friendly surface, are not necessarily a guide to what will happen on a pitch at Galle that is reported to be much less trustworthy.

As the captain, Strauss is under such scrutiny that any failure is compounded by the cares of leadership. This will have done him only good, sashaying down the pitch to hit a six early on after taking 17 balls to score. Bell and Pietersen both mucked things up, though Pietersen has a notoriously relaxed attitude to practice matches – as opposed to practice, to which he is devoted. Bell was on the verge of greatness last year so something cannot be right. He struck his second ball for six here imperiously – but the flick that caused his dismissal was plain dumb.