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 difficult 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.
Their gains were offset by the continuing losses of Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell, both of whom have had moderate winters in white-clothes cricket. Hardly had Strauss and Trott reached 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 low to short mid-wicket 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 nobody in the England camp has yet seen – perhaps they should have sent a scouting party – but is reliably reported to be much less trustworthy.
Half centuries in both the practice matches in the United Arab Emirates did not lead to a successful Test series for Strauss. But as the captain he is under such scrutiny that any failure is immediately compounded by the cares of leadership.
This will have done him only good, sashaying down the pitch to hit a six pretty early in the piece after taking 17 balls to score and composing an orderly innings afterwards which lasted a little more than three hours. Trott's lasted a little longer before Bell and Pietersen both mucked things up.
Pietersen has a notoriously relaxed attitude to practice matches – as opposed to practice, of which he is a devotee – and considers them beneath him. Bell is of a different hue. He was England's most prodigious batsman last year and on the verge of greatness.
But his top score in 15 innings since the end of the last English summer is 39 with an average below 10. Something cannot be right. He struck his second ball for six yesterday and there was something imperious about it but the flick that caused his dismissal was dumb. Bell is better than this, much better, and at Galle next week he needs to show why.
After these dismissals there followed a strange interlude during which Ravi Bopara and Samit Patel played as circumspectly as if a Test match batting place depended on it. Maybe it does but they managed to halve the match scoring rate to two an over until England declared at 272 for 4, 159 behind the Development XI who batted on for 45 minutes in the morning. Bopara and Patel both seemed to be saying with every forward prop: "Look at me, look at me, I'm not going to do anything silly."
Strauss hauled them off either because he was bored silly or because he had come to an arrangement with the opposition captain, Thilinga Kandamby, that he would not enforce the follow-on and would make a match of it. Stuart Broad took another new-ball wicket, the sort that will be vital from Monday onwards but the pitch was still as full of runs as reptiles.
Second day of three: Sri Lanka Cricket XI are leading England XI by 203 runs with nine second-innings wickets in hand
Sri Lanka Cricket XI won toss
SRI LANKA CRICKET XI - First Innings (Silva 163, Kandamby 64)
Over night 376-5
Runs 6s 4s Bls Min
A K Perera c Trott b Finn 85 3 7 137 207
K S Lokuarachchi not out 51 0 8 75 87
I Udana not out 0 0 0 0 1
Extras (lb6 w2 nb6) 14
Total (for 6 dec, 100 overs) 431
Fall: 1-1, 2-38, 3-189, 4-282, 5-342, 6-427.
Did Not Bat: A B T Lakshitha, M V T Fernando, S Weerakoon.
Bowling: S C J Broad 18-3-69-3, S T Finn 20-2-93-2, T T Bresnan 18-0-59-0, G P Swann 19-2-91-0, R S Bopara 5-1-19-0, S R Patel 20-2-94-1.
ENGLAND XI - First Innings
Runs 6s 4s Bls Min
*A J Strauss retired out 100 1 13 139 171
I J L Trott retired out 102 0 16 141 187
K P Pietersen st M Perera b Weerakoon 26 1 2 26 35
I R Bell c Kandamby b Lakshitha 14 1 0 18 20
R S Bopara not out 11 0 0 34 52
S R Patel not out 13 0 1 41 48
Extras (lb2 w1 nb3) 6
Total (for 4 dec, 66 overs) 272
Fall: 1-197, 2-217, 3-247, 4-247.
Did Not Bat: †M J Prior, T T Bresnan, S C J Broad, G P Swann, S T Finn.
Bowling: A B T Lakshitha 12-3-30-1, M V T Fernando 11-0-49-0, I Udana 7-0-39-0, S Weerakoon 23-2-96-1, K S Lokuarachchi 13-0-56-0.
SRI LANKA CRICKET XI - Second Innings
Runs 6s 4s Bls Min
E M G D Y Munaweera not out 26 0 6 26 29
B S M Warnapura lbw b Broad 4 0 1 7 24
†M D K J Perera not out 7 0 1 17 4
Extras (b1 lb4 nb2) 7
Total (for 1, 8 overs) 44
To Bat: L P C Silva, K S Lokuarachchi, *S H T Kandamby, A K Perera, A B T Lakshitha, I Udana, M V T Fernando, S Weerakoon.
Bowling: S C J Broad 3-0-18-1, T T Bresnan 3-1-14-0, S R Patel 1-0-7-0, G P Swann 1-1-0-0.
Umpires: W N de Silva and T H Wijewardene.
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