During the climax of The Apprentice last week one of the contestants, hanging on for dear life, insisted that she was not about to roll over and have her tummy tickled. She lost all the same.
The image from the television programme of the moment sprang to mind yesterday as Sri Lanka, having shown all the grit and fight of a lap dog in the first two days of the match, at last exhibited something akin to tenacity. Sinhalese bulldog, say. They will lose all the same.
So dire were their efforts in both first innings of the match, almost an affront to previous Sri Lankan sides at Lord's, that at the start of the third day it was already spent as a legitimate contest in the sense that either side could win or lose. But the tourists managed yesterday to alter the nature of the inevitable defeat by some belated resistance in their first innings and some proper batting endeavour in their second which left them 176 behind with seven wickets left.
It was probably as well for England to be so engaged. There is a danger that international reputations are being secured, or at least trumpeted, on the basis of easy pickings. Not that anybody's performance deserves belittling - full house at Lord's and all that - but the crazy craving to create overnight heroes may have repercussions in the worst possible place at the worst possible time: Australia this winter.
One copper-bottomed hero could be properly celebrated. Matthew Hoggard became the 10th England player and third Yorkshireman to take 200 Test wickets when he executed a sharp catch to his left off his own bowling to dismiss Farveez Maharoof. He had advanced to 202 by the close and must have a chance of overtaking the others from the Broad Acres who are above him, Fred Trueman (307) and Darren Gough (229).
Sri Lanka extended their first innings to 192, their last four wickets adding 101 in the morning, which defied belief in the wake of their submission on the second afternoon. As night follows day, they then lost an early wicket following on, Jehan Mubarak at least avoiding the enduring indignity of a pair.
Just as the jazz band near the pavilion, not to mention the female choir at the other end of Lord's, were presumably honing their versions of "Tell Me The Same Old Story", Upul Tharanga and Kumar Sangakkara showed the full face of the bat.
It was not always pretty and it defied many natural instincts but at last the home side had something to think about. The tourists' minds might have been concentrated by the arrival in England of the previously retired Sanath Jayasuriya, whose Test career has apparently been resurrected by the intervention of the President, Mahinda Rajapakse. It will be interesting to see if Tom Moody, Sri Lanka's coach, believes that Jayasuriya is too short of match practice to play in Birmingham but it is the sort of decision you are glad he has to make and not you.
After Mubarak chopped on during a thoroughly probing opening spell from Hoggard, Tharanga redoubled his determination. He was not always assured but England's bowling lacked zip whereas the previous night it had so much zip it was impossible to count the teeth.
While the shine was extant, Andrew Flintoff rotated his four seamers plus Paul Collingwood. But eventually, by the 30th over of Sri Lanka's second innings and England's 86th over of the match, he could delay the moment no longer. To the biggest cheer of the day, slightly louder than when he fielded or even failed to field anything, Monty Panesar was introduced.
Without ever having made a Test appearance in England, meaning he had probably been seen live before by no more than five per cent of the crowd, he has become a cult hero. This says something about the influence of newspapers and the reach of that controversial beast, satellite television, since it was on Sky in the winter that most of the audience will have seen Monty for the first time. What a big-timer then he would have been, according to the perspective of some, on the Beeb.
Occasionally he was hopeless in the field. When a straightforward drive seeped through his legs at mid-off, the fans thought it a hoot. TV too enjoyed the moment, before panning to a stern-faced Duncan Fletcher on the dressing-room balcony.
But it was Panesar who made the second breakthrough after the second-wicket stand had reached 109 in 36 overs, and the third incision after the third wicket had shared 65. Tharanga was deceived by the lack of turn and the faint nick was well held by Geraint Jones, who managed to stay low.
Panesar whooped and danced with pleasure, actions that are now almost de rigueur, before completing a controlled first spell in England of 12 overs from the Pavilion End.
Sangakkara, a model of measured denial throughout the afternoon, nicked the returning Panesar to Jones with the day dribbling away. Same combination, same reaction.
Later in the over, Flintoff appeared to have caught the nightwatchman, Maharoof, off bat and pad at silly point. Aleem Dar rejected the appeal and denied Monty another whirligig. Dar is an exceptional official but it seems that umpires also tire towards the end of the day.
Panesar may have a long Test career, though it would be wise not to talk him up too much yet. Having the goodwill of the public, however, in a way that less vulnerable souls do not, is an asset not to be lightly treated.
Sri Lanka's deficit of 359 had seemed too mountainous to climb. Assisted by some unexacting bowling in the morning their tail was almost roistering. Sajid Mahmood found a repeat of the exciting deeds of Friday beyond him. It was left to the trained executives, Hoggard and Flintoff, to round things up instead of the apprentices. Sri Lanka should still be fired sometime today.
NPOWER TEST SCOREBOARD
England won toss
England - First Innings 551-6dec
(K P Pietersen 158, M E Trescothick 106, A N Cook 89, P D Collingwood 57)
Sri Lanka - First Innings (Overnight 91-6)
*D P M Jayawardene c Jones b Flintoff 61 (Edged seaming ball to keeper; 168 min, 118 balls, 9 fours)
M F Maharoof c and b Hoggard 22 (Leading edge back to bowler playing across line; 59 min, 37 balls, 3 fours)
W P U J C Vaas c Trescothick b Hoggard 31 (Edged back-foot forcing shot high to first slip; 69 min, 36 balls, 4 fours)
K M D N Kulasekara c Strauss b Flintoff 29 (Gloved sharply lifting ball to second slip; 65 min, 52 balls, 4 fours)
M Muralitharan not out 0 (3 min, 0 balls)
Extras (lb8 nb10) 18
Total (266 min, 55.3 overs) 192
Fall contd: 7-129 (Maharoof), 8-131 (Jayawardene), 9-192 (Vaas), 10-192 (Kulasekara).
Bowling: Hoggard 14-4-27-4 (nb2) (7-1-14-2 4-2-7-0 2-0-6-1 1-1-0-1), Flintoff 17.3-2-55-2 (nb3) (4-1-11-0 3-0-7-0 4-1-11-0 4-0-15-1 2.3-0-11-1), Plunkett 11-0-52-0 (nb5) (6-0-32-0 5-0-20-0), Mahmood 13-2-50-3 (10-2-33-3 3-0-17-0).
Jayawardene 50: 143 min, 102 balls, 7 fours
Sri Lanka - Second Innings
J Mubarak b Hoggard 6 (Bowled through gate attempting to drive; 18 min, 14 balls)
W U Tharanga c Jones b Panesar 52 (Faint, low nick to keeper; 163 min, 126 balls, 7 fours)
ÝK C Sangakkara c Jones b Panesar 65 (Faint edge behind; 226 min, 156 balls, 6 fours)
*D P M D Jayawardene not out 35 (98 min, 74 balls, 4 fours)
M F Maharoof not out 5 (16 min, 15 balls, 1 four)
Extras (b9 lb8 w2 nb1) 20
Total (for 3, 262 min, 64 overs) 183
Fall: 1-10 (Mubarak), 2-119(Tharanga), 3-178 (Sangakkara).
To Bat: T T Samaraweera, T M Dilshan, C K Kapugedera, W P U J C Vaas, K M D N Kulasekara, M Muralitharan.
Bowling: Hoggard 13-4-26-1 (7-3-14-1 1-0-4-0 5-1-8-0), Flintoff 14-2-41-0 (4-1-6-0 3-0-17-0 3-0-9-0 4-1-9-0), Mahmood 10-1-35-0 (w1) (2-0-9-0 3-0-8-0 5-1-18-0), Plunkett 7-2-28-0 (3-1-12-0 4-1-16-0), Collingwood 5-1-10-0 (nb1, w1) (one spell), Panesar 15-5-26-2 (12-3-25-1 3-2-1-1).
Progress: Third day: 50: 77 min, 17.3 overs. Tea: 93-1 (Tharanga 41, Sangakkara 30) 29 overs. 100: 136 min, 32.2 overs. 150: 216 min, 52.5 overs.
Tharanga 50: 145 min, 115 balls, 7 fours.
Sangakkara 50: 179 min, 121 balls, 4 fours.
Umpires: R E Koertzen (SA) & Aleem Dar (Pak).
Third Umpire: N J Llong. Match Referee: A G Hurst (Aus).