Expecting little play on the second day of the third Test between England and Sri Lanka, the Squire decided to take his yacht, Bolivar, which is permanently moored a nautical mile or two from the Rose Bowl on the River Hamble, on the short hop across the Solent to Cowes.
Yachting enthusiasts, of whom there are many in these parts, will know that the Squire accepted Bolivar in part payment for a gaming debt from the Earl of Blessington – the Earl and Countess having purchased the schooner from their friend, George Gordon Noel Byron, when that cricketer, poet, pugilist and philanderer had decided to dedicate himself to helping the Greeks win their independence form the
EMU Ottoman yoke.
In the old days the Squire would often make this crossing to visit his good friend William Ward, staying at Northwood House and playing for Mr Ward’s celebrated XI.
The point is that on the morning of the second day of the Test, the Squire, his yacht-master Pilot Hindle and Third Man found themselves without the Time Machine and bobbing up and down in the harbour with not a cloud in the sky – the anticipated weather front, high winds and thunder storms nowhere to be seen.
So, it was all hands on deck to beat back across the Solent. On the Bolivar’s radio Jonathan Agnew was interviewing a young woman from the Met Office who was warning him that no one should be taken-in by this quiet spell of weather. It was a sucker’s gap.
Third Man, though the sea is in his veins, is not a natural sailor and his stomach turned at the expression. The suckers gap refers to a bright area with little cloud before a cold front that has tempted many a pilot up into the sky and sailor out onto the ocean only for them to find the fine weather turning foul when they encounter the cumulonimbus clouds, and thunder and lightning developing behind a fast approaching front.
At the Rose Bowl, 23.2 overs were bowled and five wickets taken during the sucker’s gap. Chris Tremlett took his haul from two to six wickets for 42 in 18.2 overs – and a place on the freshly painted honours board, while the Lankans sank ignominiously to 177 for 9.
It was a torrid time for the visitors who may have asked, ‘What gap?’ There seemed no interval at all in the pounding taken by their hands and bodies as the steep bounce and sideways movement continued to encourage the bowlers.
Samaraweera took another blow to the hand and must have been relieved when he edged one to gully. Perera, hardly a Test number 7, was battered and pounded by short stuff before flying a top gallant and edging to Prior. Herath went down all guns blazing. And the impressive Prasanna eventually lowered his flag when he hoisted Swann to mid wicket.
This left poor Broad
side as the only wicketless bowler in these helpful conditions with 18 overs, 3 maidens, 0 for 50 – the maidens having come when he and Strauss perplexed the batsmen and most of the spectators by aiming over the head of the in-form Prasanna in order to keep him down at one end while Englandattacked numbers nine, ten, jack at the other.
Heavy rain is forecast for Day 3, it looks fine for Sunday but dubious again on the final day.
England are not the most adventurous in these seas so expect them to bat towards the safety of a lea shore … unless … there are more gaps in the weather.