Here at 51allout we’re a lazy bunch. Once, rather than get off the sofa and turn off the telly, we took it in turns to throw things at the screen. When that failed to produce the desired result we simply sat through an entire episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, like it was the most natural thing in the world. Looking back, we should probably have just used the remote.
Similarly, when it came to writing about England’s recent tour of Sri Lanka we concocted a clever plan: we’d just send somebody else and get them to write about it while we all retained our comfy places on the sofa, in prime position to watch Everybody Loves Raymond as soon as play finished. And so we did, sending our official Scottish friend Angus to see what Colombo was like. He spent a week there taking in the second Test.
Angus: After travelling to Colombo to watch a Test match abroad for the first time, I was asked by the wonderful folk at 51allout* to give my thoughts on the game, as well as Sri Lanka and life in general. Here’s what I’ve managed to recall from five (well, four) beer-soaked days:
Flying out to Colombo I’d been trying to decide whether to wear shorts and t-shirt or a spacesuit, as, judging from some articles I’d seen, I was about to set foot on the surface of the sun. I’d read descriptions of the air turning to syrup, of players hallucinating and of fast bowlers spontaneously combusting during their run up. While it was definitely hot, especially compared to Scotland, as I sat under the cover of the temporary stand with a nice cold beer in hand, I did think to myself, ‘it’s not all that bad here’. I feared there might be a risk of players talking up the heat too much and subconsciously tiring themselves out, but that (mostly) didn’t seem to be the case. I thought the bowlers actually handled the heat much better than the batsmen. By the end of Pietersen’s innings he was moving between the wickets like Alan Davies trying to bite the ear off a tramp. He (KP, not Davies) had the excuse of batting for a very long stretch; several other dismissals struck me as the result of players tiring and playing lazy half-hearted shots.
Not many cricketers can score a quick-fire 150, and it felt like KP’s first innings was a very deliberate exhibition of his sporadic cricketing genius. Yes, he’ll sometimes get out playing the sort of shot that will have Geoffrey Boycott lashing out in frustration, as if a woman had just asked to marry him. Everyone should accept that with Pietersen the good far outweighs the bad and just forgive him his occasional crazy shot selection.
A couple of times conversations were overheard from slightly grumpy prawn sandwich munchers along the lines of ‘you wouldn’t have building debris strewn about the stands at Lord’s’. Or that you could lunch on organic beefburger or posh fish and chips at Lord’s rather than staring suspiciously at what was allegedly a chicken hot-dog. Or that when you reserved your ticket it meant that you actually had a seat (as opposed to Colombo where the people who took the reservations had clearly never spoken to the people on the ticket booths). Nonetheless, if I wanted Lord’s, I know where to find it, even if I don’t know where to find the large wad of cash necessary to purchase a ticket for a day’s play. In reality, the rubble was fine if you could spare all of a minute to walk around it; the chicken hot-dogs didn’t kill me (my friend did get food poisoning but that could have been from anything); and we did eventually get tickets – not the ones we’d asked for but ones that turned out to be much more fun anyway, with nary a Pimm’s, a cucumber sandwich or organic beefburger to be seen. So well done to Colombo for putting on a good show and, er, keeping it real*.
Day four was one of those days that hardcore Test match fans love, with hours of toil in the field for England with the players working hard for every wicket. Three overs from the end of play they had a distinctly average return for their efforts, with Sri Lanka edging ahead for the loss of just four wickets. It felt like a long day in the stands too: slow scoring, not many wickets and, to cap it all, Sri Lanka was having a ‘Dry Day’ where the country cannot consume or even sell alcohol. The new ball arrived late in the afternoon and Anderson looked dangerous but just couldn’t conjure up a wicket before, in the penultimate over, the ball was thrown to Swann and he immediately he got the breakthrough, removing Samaraweera and Randiv in the space of three deliveries. Suddenly the match swung decisively in England’s favour and everyone went back to their hotels feeling like they’d been on a (very long) roller coaster journey. Anyone with a T20 attention span may have left early and wouldn’t have experienced the satisfaction of seeing a great finale to a day that required patience, both on and off the field.
I think Tim Bresnan now has a record of played 53, won 53 with England. Or something like that anyway. It’s moved from being lucky, to quirky, to just jolly good. If this run is down to luck then he must have used it all up on the field, because he was clearly devoid of it as he waited to get through customs at Colombo airport on the way home. We spotted him in one of the queues and promptly selected the very same so we could feel like we were hanging out with the big man and his Mrs. Unfortunately, someone at the front seemed to have a rather dodgy visa and kept us waiting. After 15 minutes Mr Bresnan, as he is known to those of us who queue beside him, gave in to temptation and moved to a different line. Trusting our man, we followed. Now the new queue ground to a halt just as the old one got moving. Eventually we gave up on him, went to a third queue and duly got through, leaving him looking rather forlorn in our wake. I did feel bad – he probably deserved the quicker queue slightly more than we did.
So my first Test abroad was a roaring success, with Colombo offering us nearly as many pleasures as Tony Greig had promised, and the cricket overall being a joy to experience, helped somewhat by the final result. I’m hoping 51allout will invite me to report again on England’s next away tour [Editor’s note – they won’t], particularly as a match is scheduled to be played in glorious Pune, where I understand that for those interested in history and architecture, Pune offers a mix of the modern interlaced with the old. Whether it is the Lal Deval standing side by side with a spanking petrol pump or Vishram Baug Wada, which now functions as a post office, the list is endless! (Not my words, the words of VirtualPune.com)
*He really did say these things**