Day 1 of the First Test had witnessed a hive of activity in the Great House. Early that morning Third Man had taken the Type III up to a great height from which he could plot the incoming waves of rainfall temporarily exhausting themselves and holding out the prospect of a fine breezy afternoon with a similar day to follow.
Stopping only to communicate the picture to Will It Rain Today and one or two favoured recipients of such intelligence, including the Sri Lankan coach, TM returned to find all that might need washing gathered in and thrown into the tub.
In the fields on that Thursday afternoon, the village was out to mow and by dusk every blade of grass was scythed. The Squire is an experimental agriculturalist and alone in the Land insists on growing grass which, when cut, is quickly dried and bundled.
By dinnertime just stubble remained and the haywain trundled his top-heavy cart towards the Great Barn. All the village knows that it will tip down on Day 3. “Job’s a good’n,” voiced the Reeve.
Why this picturesque description? Because no one knows better than Stuart Law, who now manages the Sri Lankan concern and has had many discussions with the Squire on farming practice, how to take advantage of a period of dry weather.
On Day 1 of the 1st Test, as the sun came out in the late afternoon, it was all Sri Lankan hands to the task of bringing in the runs.
Day 2, continuing bright and dry, they knew to be critical to their chances in the Series. Recovering from losing the first in a three match series is toil indeed.
Retuning to the field at 133 for 2 and before a single run could be gathered they lost DPMD Jayawardene and 26 runs later Tharanga as well.
At this point the game might have gone either of two ways. England, bowling a fuller length, must have hoped it would go theirs seizing the advantage of hacking down an overgrown tail inexperienced in these conditions.
But first the steadfast Samaraweera and then Prasanna Jayawardene stuck to their task, playing one ball at a time and mentally dismissing each play-and-miss, each edged shot, each streaked boundary and put on a series-shaping partnership of 119.
Of the England bowlers, Broad, now part of management, kept his cool – just – Anderson worryingly left the field with a troubled back, Tremlett mimicked McGrath without yet the gift of finding the finer edges and Swann, who ended the day with 3 – 78, looked ever dangerous which, given any other prevailing weather pattern, might have excited the spinners on the opposing side.
After tea, as Jayawardene’s bat scythed the air in a beautifully languid way reaping for himself a deserved and stylish hundred, the Sri Lankan batsmen could be heard singing that fine old farming hymn, “Safely, safely, gathered in, Far from sorrow, far from sin …” whilst they heaped a neat and precise stack of 400 runs.
Englandreplied with 47 for the loss of their captain, but the interval of dry weather has passed and Mendis and Herath will have to wait for a drying wind if they are to get their chance to reinforce the lesson that England should have played two specialist spinners.
Sri Lanka 400, England 47/1
While incongruously in Chennai, Malinga experienced Gayle Force conditions