For the second day running play in the fourth day of the second Test between England and Sri Lanka at the Rose Bowl was brought to a close in bright sunshine which stained the shadows of players and umpires onto a vivid green tablecloth set out on this Hampshire ground. But, unlike yesterday, the crowd seemed to have been sated by a full ration of play and many had already drifted homeward thinking of their next day’s service.
This state of mind, thinking of the fare to come, seemed all-consuming, with England now having their taste buds excited not so much by the forthcoming candy of the ODIs and T20s with the Lankans, but on the arrival of the great treats and spices that are on their way from India.
Sangakarra seemed to be reaching for something citric to wash away the taste of a low-twenties average garnered from the nine Tests he has played in England while in the home kitchen Broad may not yet have satisfied inspection at the pass.
Earlier, the new dawn had dispelled the ferment of the day before as if had been foam fading on a chef’s nouvelle creation. Well, enough of them to allow play to start on schedule for the first time this match, but a dark cloud must still hang over the way Test cricket is concocted. With so much of the principle ingredient, time, removed from this dish why did the match not start at 10am?
Test cricket potentially provides the tang of concentrated experience which can only come into being when the zest that an audience provides acts as a catalyst. Without one, the offering is an unseasoned dish, bland cuisine. As it is, the final course of this Test will be consumed by the few at a prix fixe of £10 for adults and £5 for under 16s in a sparingly patronised dining room
A revolution is required, even if the British are unsuited to the task. They are life’s potmen and bottle washers, used to taking orders, grumbling, reluctantly getting their hands elbow deep in hot water, cursing at the end of the day and coming back tomorrow for their pay. They are not natural entrepreneurs speculating on the opening of a new establishment and excited by an idea for the menu.
One market based suggestion made yesterday was that umpires should be fined their match fees for not achieving any required over rate. The interruptions were interminable. Unscheduled drinks, pain killing sprays, fresh applications of sun cream: these should be the preoccupations of spectators not of players. Their business is cooking up confections to delight their clientele.
The game in general as well as in the particular is slow cooking its way towards the 80 over tariff which would give 400 covers in a match. Well, why not provide patrons with 100 overs in a day, starting at 10.30, and four days in a match ending on a Sunday?
On the positive side, England did press the match forward, but there could be little excuse for not doing so against the ‘county’ standard bowling served up to them. And Sri Lanka did apply themselves as players with the rating of their establishment to protect.
The home side, starting at 195 for 4, declared at 377 for 7, 44 overs into the day’s service with Bell not out 119 (average 331 for the series) and the ever unselfish Morgan having again entertained regally like a Celtic lord providing a feast of 71 runs for his followers.
This set the Lankans 194 to avoid an innings defeat. They ended the day 49 overs later at 112 for 3. Yes, 93 overs in the day and 294 runs.
Hovering high above the south west of England in the Type III, Third Man can see more showers blowing down the English Channel in the direction of the Rose Bowl, but the forecast is not as poor as it was earlier thought. This is not the case for those who savour Test cricket.