Rain brings relief after dry statistics of the Test which died of boredom
Friday 14 December 2007
Thoughts turned hurriedly and emotionally to Galle last night for all involved in this Test series. The match here was best consigned immediately to history, to be revisited only in extremis by statisticians or researchers.
They might wish to be enlightened on the quality of Mahela Jayawardene's 20th Test century, or try to discover why Michael Vaughan did not score his 18th or Ian Bell his seventh, or analyse why only 22 wickets fell in five attritional days. But the overwhelming feeling was one of relief that it was all over.
Heavy rain brought a merciful end to proceedings at tea on the fifth day. Huge covers were dragged across virtually the whole ground to keep the torrent off, but they could have been a carpet under which to sweep the memory of a torpid match. When Stuart Broad is an old man and is asked to reflect on the deeds of a mighty career by telling how it all started for him in Tests, his interviewer may think it is merely the fading of memory caused by age if he fails to recall the events of the SCG, 9 to 13 December, 2007. It will be no such thing.
Although Vaughan, as England's captain, rightly pointed out how comfortably his team achieved the draw, Sri Lanka took more from it. There was much more spice in Jayawardene's assessment of matters than had ever existed in the pitch from the first morning on and on. As ever, he was courteous and understated and if it had been an attempt, say, to hype a big fight the promoters would have been tearing their hair out. But there was clever, pointed substance in what he said.
"We were definitely pushing for a victory so we could seal the series, but if it's going to be a slow wicket at Galle I think we stand a much better chance of scoring runs than England. We were disappointed with the way England batted in the first innings on this wicket, scoring only 350 runs batting for five sessions.
"It's quite difficult to win a Test match when you bat like that. If they want to win a Test match they probably need to bat quicker and put pressure on the opposition. When the wicket was at its best they didn't push for runs, so I felt we had the upper hand."
A points win for the home side, albeit narrowly, because they bowled out the opposition once. But such things do not exist in cricket and certainly nobody hit the canvas. If England do not have it all to play for in Galle, they will be grateful to have something to play for.
The Third Test will be imbued with emotion. It is the first match to be played at Galle, barring one friendly, since its rebuilding after the tsunami three years ago. There will be abundant memories of the thousands who died nearby. Some of the Sri Lankan players had family members who perished. But as Jayawardene said, it will also be a celebration, probably of the human spirit. And last night people could hardly wait to make the journey.
* The ECB chairman, Giles Clarke, has been in talks with Zimbabwe cricket officials about their prospective short tour of England in 2009. He did not rebut claims in a Zimbabwe newspaper that compensation had been offered to Zimbabwe, whose Test status has been suspended, if they agreed to withdraw.
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