Sri Lanka 135 (Chandimal 28, Bess 5-30, Broad 3-20) vs England
Stuart Broad could have been forgiven if, in the early moments of this Test, he reflected on the wisdom of the phrase ‘careful what you wish for’.
For by then, England had lost what was anticipated to be an important toss and been sentenced to bowl first on a surface expected to deteriorate. And, by then, any hope that England’s seamers might have had that recent unseasonable rain in the region would provide them with some assistance had been dispelled. The ball resolutely refused to budge, off the pitch or in the air, in those opening overs. The pitch looked flat, slow and, for a seamer at least, remorseless.
Might Broad, who had memorably railed against the decision to leave him out of the team at the start of the English international summer, have allowed his mind to drift to the dressing room and wonder whether James Anderson, left out of the side for this game, was the luckier of the veteran pairing?
Probably not. Broad is nothing if not competitive and probably wouldn’t entertain such negative thoughts. And despite going into this match with a gruesome record in Sri Lanka – his three wickets, across three previous tours, had come at a cost of 83 apiece – he used all his experience and all his skill to find a way to contribute.
Within his first eight overs, he had taken as many wickets as in those three previous tours. Recognising that his usual ploy to left-handers – going round the wicket, aiming at off stump, and persuading the odd ball to leave the bat – was not going to work on this surface, he instead started to improvise.
Angling the ball into the left-handers, he was rewarded as Lahiru Thirimanne, attempting to nudge the ball off his hip, succeeded only in guiding the ball to Jonny Bairstow at leg gully, before Kusal Mendis, coming off a gruesome run of form, was drawn into feeling for a cutter outside off stump which gripped and left him just fractionally only two deliveries later. It was Mendis’s fourth successive duck and means he has been dismissed five times from his most recent 13 balls in Test cricket without scoring a run.
While Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews rebuilt in a stand of 56 for the fourth wicket, Broad’s return after lunch split the pair. Varying his pace relentlessly, he persuaded Mathews to attempt to cut one that was probably both too full and too close to him for the stroke. The resultant edged flashed to slip where Joe Root did well to hold on.
Broad had, on a pitch offering him nothing, made deep inroads into the Sri Lankan batting. Their final total, 135, was the lowest first-innings total in Galle’s history as a Test venue.
But if Broad made the inroads, it was Dom Bess who was the beneficiary. Despite looking some way beneath his best, Bess claimed his second Test five-for – and Test-best figures at this stage of his career – in finishing with 5 for 30.
Sri Lanka, it has to be said, were culpable for several of these dismissals. That’s putting it mildly, really. Their batting was awful. Failing to take advantage of winning the toss, they looked short of confidence and preparation time after recently returning from a drubbing in South Africa.
Kusal Perera, having seen his side lose two wickets in the game’s opening seven overs, reacted to the introduction of spin by attempting to reverse-sweep Bess’s second delivery. Perera’s range of stroke and ability to put pressure on the bowlers is a strength of his game, but this looked an odd – and probably inappropriate – response to his side’s predicament. He succeeded only in scuffing the ball to first slip off his glove.
In truth, Bess will bowl better and finish wicketless. In particular, he struggled to maintain a probing length. But he was the beneficiary again when Niroshan Dickwella, eyes lighting up when he was served the longest of long-hops, somehow managed to slice the ball to point. It was a moment of cricket which might have been more familiar at the lower reaches of a club game though to be fair to both teams, they come into this series having had an unprecedented lack of preparation time.
Perhaps Sri Lanka will reflect that they didn’t enjoy much luck, either. Dasun Shanaka connected nicely with a slog-sweep only to see the ball thump into the ankle of Jonny Bairstow, jumping to evade it at short-leg, and balloon to the keeper, before Lasith Embuldeniya, backing up, was run-out after the bowler, Jack Leach, managed to get a fingertip on Wanindu Hasaranga’s straight drive and the ball deflected into the stumps at the bowler’s end.
Still, when Hasaranga – getting into a horrible position as he attempted a reverse-sweep – was bowled to complete Bess’s five-for, it did sum up a truly wretched display of batting from Sri Lanka. Broad, in particular, bowled with intelligence and Dilruwan Perera might feel he was beaten in the flight by a ball that dipped sharply. But this was just about as soft a batting performance as you will see in Test cricket.
It had been a difficult morning for Sri Lanka even before the toss. Their captain, Dimuth Karunaratne, had been ruled out of the game as the result of a hand injury sustained during the Test series in South Africa. While he had been confident of being fit for this match, it is understood he suffered a recurrence of pain after training the day before the game and was forced to withdraw. His involvement in the second Test must also be in doubt.
By then, England had announced that Dan Lawrence would make his debut. He was presented with his Test cap – number 697 – by his former Essex captain, James Foster, who is with the squad in his role as wicketkeeping consultant. Lawrence did put down a simple chance at cover, off Leach, to reprieve Chandimal on 22. But it didn’t cost England much. Their only concern at the innings break was news that Bairstow had been forced off the pitch with a sore ankle as a result of the Shanaka dismissal.
As expected, England opted for just two specialist spinners, in Bess and Leach, and three seamers. With Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali all absent for various reasons and Ben Foakes not selected despite being player of the series on England’s last tour of Sri Lanka, it means there are only four survivors in their team from the side that won in Sri Lanka in 2018. England have lost the first Test in five of their last six series.
The England side wore black armbands in memory of John Edrich, Robin Jackman and Dom Smith, all former England Test cricketers who sadly passed away recently.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
India vs England 4th Test Ahmedabad – Dom Bess will be ‘more than ready to go’ if selected for fourth Test
Jeetan Patel says offspinner is in ‘good spirits’ and ready to return after being dropped
Jack Leach and Jeetan Patel have backed Dom Bess to recover from the disappointment of being dropped and play a major role if selected for England’s fourth Test in India as they look to square the series 2-2.
Bess took 17 wickets at 22.75 across both of England’s Tests in Sri Lanka and the first Test in Chennai – all three of which England won – but was left out of the side for the second Chennai Test with Moeen Ali preferred, and was again omitted in the third Test at Ahmedabad as England opted for a seam-heavy line-up.
England are unlikely to consider either of the back-up spinners in their touring group for the final Test, with Matt Parkinson and Amar Virdi still categorised as ‘reserves’ after Mason Crane flew home before the start of the third Test. As a result, Bess will be in line for a recall if they decide to revert to a side with two frontline spin options, having relied on Joe Root’s part-time offbreaks last week.
Patel, who was unveiled as England’s full-time spin-bowling coach on Monday having travelled to Asia in a consultancy role, said that Bess was in “very good spirits” despite his disappointment at missing out on selection.
“I think Dom’s pretty good,” Patel said. “I spoke to him yesterday and he’s in a very good state, actually. He knows that this last Test match is a big Test match for England: to go 2-2 in this series, through four Test matches, would be a fantastic effort.
“I think he’s in very good spirits. It’s fair to say he was a bit disappointed he wasn’t selected in that third Test that’s just gone, but the feeling was that the pink ball would react differently and it didn’t go the way we thought it would go. We had a plan and it didn’t quite work, so that’s okay.”
Leach, Bess’ long-term team-mate at Somerset before their respective breakthroughs for England, said that he had encouraged Bess to view being dropped as an opportunity to learn and get better.
“Dom’s worked hard: he’s been working hard in the nets and he’s a great character, and he will see it as a good learning experience,” Leach said. “I’m sure if called upon in this last Test he’ll be more than ready to go.
“From my experience, whenever I’ve had a low moment it’s always turned out to be a good thing, I think. It’s all about how you view that low moment: it’s not nice at the time but if you approach cricket in the right way then I think good things can come from it. That’s definitely what we’re talking about and how we’re thinking.”
Leach, who has taken twice as many wickets in the series (16 at 26.75) as any other England bowler, said that his performances against some of the world’s best players of spin provided a major boost to his confidence after a year out of the Test side.
“This series has given me a lot of confidence in general,” he said. “The guys you are bowling against are world-class batters and playing them in their own backyard I feel it’s a challenging experience. I feel like I’ve stood up to that pretty well and got some good wickets and it is a confidence boost.
“I don’t think I could really have expected much more of myself than how I’ve done and how I’ve got better through the tour. It has given me a lot of confidence that I can go on and play a lot for England and that I’m going to get better and better.
“My belief in myself is more than it has been in the past, and again, doing it out here in India against some top batters has given me lots of confidence. I know I still have lots of hard work to do but I’ve seen how I can come back from disappointment or tough times in games and put in good performances. That’s more pleasing to me than having it all my own way and bowling sides out.”
Patel and Leach also talked up Root’s credentials as an offspinner, after his haul of 5 for 8 in the first innings of the third Test. “Nicked a five-for off me, didn’t he?” Leach joked. “He bowled really well and he’s a really good offspin bowler. I think he should definitely think of himself as a genuine option.”
Patel added: “If you take two frontline spinners in Leach and Bess, you know you have Root to then break that up. It is on Rooty himself to say ‘I can bowl, I can offer’. I think he has got a huge offering in that line-up, because he gets the ball to arrive differently and at a different pace and he gets it to do different things. In some ways, he is different to the other two.
“The one thing that Rooty has is a fantastic mind for cricket. He understands batting techniques, pitches, the flow of the game. And so to be able to use those skills as well as some spin skill that he has – when I say some, he’s still advancing his spin skill as well – coupled with his knowledge of the game… he’s got a lot to offer this group.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98
Mumbai, Saurashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala through to Vijay Hazare quarter-finals
The last remaining spot will go to the winner of the Delhi vs Uttarakhand game
Mumbai, Saurashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Kerala have filled up the last four automatic qualification spots for the quarter-final stage of the Vijay Hazare Trophy. They join Gujarat, Andhra, and Karnataka, who had sealed qualification on Sunday by topping their respective groups. The eighth quarter-finalist will be decided by a playoff between Delhi, who finished eighth on the combined Elite division points table, and Uttarakhand, who finished as toppers of the Plate group.
This season’s format has the top-placed teams of the five Elite division groups qualifying automatically, alongside the top two teams on points from a combined Elite division table. Mumbai won their last Group D game by 200 runs against Himachal Pradesh to finish top with five wins in five games, while Saurashtra stayed on top of Group E with 16 points despite their first loss of the season to Services.
For the other two automatic qualification spots, the teams in contention were UP and Kerala (both from Group C with 16 points), Baroda (Group A, 16 points) and Delhi (Group D, 16 points). Baroda lost out to Delhi on net run-rate, while UP’s and Kerala’s vastly superior NRRs ensured they qualified as the sixth- and seventh-placed teams.
The Plate division, which plays as one group, had two teams – Uttarakhand and Assam – finish with five wins in five games. But Uttarakhand’s NRR in excess of +3 was far too much for Assam to better on the final day of the league stage. As a result, it will be Uttarakhand who play Delhi for the last quarter-final spot.
Mumbai began the day all-but-qualified, on 16 points with an NRR boosted by their explosiveness against Puducherry last week. They fell to 49 for 4 against HP after electing to bat and it took three of their most senior players – Suryakumar Yadav (91 off 75), Aditya Tare (83 off 98) and Shardul Thakur (92 off 57) – to not only rescue them but put them far beyond the reach of HP, who folded for 121 in a chase of 322. Legspinner Prashant Solanki, in his debut season for the Mumbai senior team, took 4 for 32 to take his tally to 11 wickets in three matches. Left-arm spinner Shams Mulani took 3 for 42, including the wicket that ended the game.
Delhi‘s bowlers arrested Rajasthan‘s charge in the slog overs and bowled them out for 294, before an unbeaten 117 from Himmat Singh, and his unbroken 183-run stand with Nitish Rana (88 off 75) helped them win by eight wickets with more than five overs to spare. Rajasthan had been on course for bigger runs on the back of Manender Singh‘s 73 and Arjit Gupta‘s 51-ball 78 before Simarjeet Singh (4 for 36) and Pradeep Sangwan (3 for 62) intervened.
In the only other Group D match, Maharashtra‘s Yash Nahar made 119 to end his maiden List A season with 390 runs in five matches. That knock in a big partnership with Ankit Bawne, who made 110, and Rahul Tripathi‘s 30-ball 59, combined to help Maharasthra put up 333 for 4 and win by 137 runs. Kedar Jadhav bowled a 10-over spell that went for 34 and got him two wickets.
A career-best 158 for Rahul Singh Gahlaut helped Services pick up their second win of the season, and upset of table-toppers Saurashtra. After being put in and falling to 26 for 4, it took a 182-run stand between Gahlaut and wicketkeeper Devender Lochab (64 off 86) to lift Services past 200. They scored at more than ten an over in the last eight overs, a 21-ball 43 from former Delhi allrounder Pulkit Narang helping them get to 301 for 7. Saurashtra’s middle order collapsed in chase, courtesy of left-arm spinner Rahul Khajan Singh‘s 4 for 45, and medium-pacer Varun Choudhary‘s 3 for 62. They fell short by 68 runs with about seven overs to spare.
Meanwhile, Jammu & Kashmir made light work of chasing down Chandigarh‘s 241. Shubham Khajuria‘s 120 off 86 balls, and Henan Nazir‘s – playing only his second game – unbeaten 110 off 88 balls formed a partnership of 183 that came in fewer than 24 overs as they won with eight wickets and 16 overs to spare. Umar Nazir, Parvez Rasool, and Auqib Nabi had previously taken three wickets each.
Bengal‘s campaign ended with a loss to Haryana at the Eden Gardens. All five of Haryana’s bowlers were among the wickets, led by Sanjay Pahal‘s 3 for 32, as the hosts folded for 177. In response, Haryana had fifties from both openers – Chaitanya Bishnoi and Shubham Rohilla – anchoring different parts of their chase as they won by five wickets. They did, however, finish bottom of the table.
Left-handed Kamal Singh made his first ton in senior cricket to help Uttarakhand post 306 against Sikkim. Sikkim’s response never took off, and they ended their campaign with the aim to bat out 50 overs – which they did, finishing on 161 for 6.
The only match to buck that trend involved Nagaland chasing down 287 with eight wickets and just about as many overs to spare. Captain Rongsen Jonathan and Shrikant Mundhe both made centuries, while allrounder Stuart Binny capped his 100th List A game with a 37-ball 55 to see them home against Arunachal Pradesh, who had been fueled by an unbeaten 138 from Rahul Dalal earlier.
Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
Afghanistan vs Zimbabwe 1st Test – Sean Williams
Zimbabwe are hoping to begin the process of rebuilding their national side, with at least two confirmed Test series in the next two months, and several white-ball fixtures in the lead up to the 2023 World Cup. The windfall of matches, which starts with two Tests and three T20Is against Afghanistan in the UAE, comes after a lean year for Zimbabwe in which they only played six internationals, none of them Tests. This return to the rigours of the longest format is what captain Sean Williams says his team needs to improve across the board.
“I would love this team to play Tests as often as possible. It’s the ultimate,” Williams said. “And having the opportunity to play in Covid-19 times is massive. It’s character building. The challenges you face in Test cricket are huge and if you can overcome those challenges, it prepares you for ODI and T20 cricket. I am very excited to see the Tests against Pakistan (in April) are on, and the Ireland (white-ball) tour and then the qualifiers next year leading into the 2023 World Cup.”
Though looking forward to the opportunity to get on the field again, Zimbabwe, like many other teams, are finding that playing during the pandemic brings challenges of its own.
“It is difficult. The team sacrifices a lot. They sacrifice family time, and there is a lot of alone time,” Williams said. “The mental aspect is big. The time you spend in the room, with quarantine and testing, over and over and over – it’s extremely tough. You spend a lot of time on your cellphone and your screen time goes up. You spend a lot of time on social media and social media can play mind games with you, especially when it comes to international sport.”
The squad have moved from a biosecure environment in Harare, where they were training, to a bubble in Abu Dhabi, their base for the entire Afghanistan series. Although they are no longer confined to their hotel rooms, there are still restrictions on their movement and how much they can interact with each other.
“You’ve got trackers around your neck so you can’t spend too much time with each other. After 15 minutes, the beeper goes off and you’ve got to head off,” Williams said. “We are separated a lot of the time. It’s tough. It’s not for the faint-hearted.”
But it’s the only way to ensure they get the game time Williams is so desperate for to prompt an upskilling of their players.
Zimbabwe have to go back more than two years to remember their last Test win, against Bangladesh in Sylhet in November 2018, and more than a year for the last respectable performance in the format, when they drew against Sri Lanka in Harare. For that reason, the goal for this series is simple: “I want to win. I just want to win. Simple,” Williams said. “And we need to have team goals hour by hour like we had in the Sri Lanka Test match. And make decisions collectively as a group. There will always be a guy that struggles and someone else will have to step up and carry him along.”
The emphasis on the collective is in part a response to the number of players Zimbabwe are missing for this series. Six first-choice players – Brendan Taylor, Craig Ervine, Kyle Jarvis, Tendai Chatara, Chamu Chibhabha and PJ Moor – are out of the tour through illness or injury, putting more pressure on Williams and other senior members of the side, like Sikandar Raza.
“Missing them is huge. We need them in Test cricket but at the same time, we have a young bunch coming through. We are in a rebuilding process again,” Williams said. “Missing them is huge not only for the juniors but for guys like Raza and myself as well. They are support for the group but they are not here so we have got to get on with it.”
The absence of Taylor, Ervine, Chibhabha and Moor, which leaves Zimbabwe with an inexperienced middle-order, will not be used as an excuse for below-par batting. In fact, Williams is specifically targeting improved first-innings scores of “450-500 plus which is what’s expected in a first innings total Test cricket nowadays,” which is much more than Zimbabwe’s recent average of 280 across their last nine Tests.
“The mental aspect is big. The time you spend in the room, with quarantine and testing, over and over and over – it’s extremely tough”
It will be up to Prince Masvaure and Kevin Kasuza, who are established as the top two, to step up and Williams believes they are more than ready for the task. “Their characters speak volumes on them. If I had to pick a team on character and not on talent, they would both be there,” he said. “They have that sacrificial mindset and that makes a big difference when it comes to Test cricket. They are opening doors for themselves and for us. I am extremely happy to have them and I value them massively. The workload that they do and the work ethics they have is massive.”
Zimbabwe have several options in the bowling department, particularly when it comes to spinners, but that’s not where Williams’ focus is. Although conditions are expected to favour slower bowling, he wants his quicks to come to the fore against the Afghan line-up. “Pace against them is a big thing so we are hoping our bowlers get an opportunity to have a crack at them,” Williams said.
That means Donald Tiripano and Victor Nyauchi will have a big job to do, as will Blessing Muzarabani, who returned to Zimbabwe last year after a Kolpak stint, and will play his first Test since 2018. “It’s a huge thing to have him back. His height, his pace, the bounce that he gets is a big thing for us, especially against a team like Afghanistan,” Williams said. “His leadership skills coming from the county scene is also a big thing for us and our bowling unit.”
Both Tests and all three T20Is will be played in Abu Dhabi.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
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