Well this is rather pleasant isn’t it? England are currently sitting pretty with a lead of 177 and all ten wickets still intact. The only thing that can stop us winning this test match is the weather. Famous last words.
The day couldn’t have gone much better. Ben Foakes completed a debut century in the morning – the only other England keeper to achieve this was Matt Prior, who did so in much easier conditions (I was there) – and then England’s spinners tied Sri Lanka in knots. It was almost like a complete role reversal. Most people expected the Lankan twirlers to dominate England not the other way around.
Although I must point out (yet again) that the hosts have looked lamentable, not to mention barely interested in this game so far, England can only beat the opposition in front of them. Huge credit must therefore go to our spin triplets Leach, Moeen, and Rashid. They all bowled really well.
One of the things the media has pointed out is how well balanced our attack looks. They’re not wrong. Although it’s hardly rocket science. If you’re going to play 3 spinners it’s common sense to include an offy, a leggie, and an orthodox left-armer. Fortunately England have such bowlers in their armoury. The dark old days of England picking a four-man attack with two off-spinners are long gone.
Although Mo took the most wickets – more about him later – the bowler who impressed me most was Jack Leach. He showed real control and spun the ball more than billed too. He just looks like a natural to me. His approach is very simple, his action uncomplicated and repeatable, and the ball lands in the right spot more often than not. I hope he plays a lot more cricket for England. He actually gives Root some much needed control.
I thought Adil Rashid also did well. Yes he’s a bit of a luxury, and yes he’ll always bowl at lot of bad balls, but what cannot be denied is that he produces some absolute jaffas too. Batsmen can never totally relax against him. He’s a dangerous customer and he fully justifies his place in the team in these conditions – even if Joe Root still seems a little reluctant to trust him at times.
And now we come to Mo. That’s Moeen “drop the bastard because he’s always crap abroad” Ali. Well, he wasn’t exactly crap today was he! I wrote earlier this year that I’d give up on Mo because he simply doesn’t travel well. I didn’t buy the ‘he was injured during the Ashes’ argument because he’s been very disappointing on every single tour he’s been on. However, today he looked confident, in control, and bowled beautifully. I’m absolutely delighted for him.
Today Moeen drew level with John Emburey on 145 test wickets. That’s some achievement. What’s more, he’s taken these wickets in 11 tests fewer and at a similar average. Although spinners have a somewhat easier ride these days, and DRS makes life harder for batsmen, it’s hard to scoff at Mo’s achievements. He’ll never quite be Graeme Swann – even though he had a slightly better strike rate than Swann at one point in 2017 – but he’s a very handy attacking spinner.
Before I sign off I’d quickly like to mention Ben Foakes’ keeping. Didn’t he do well? The biggest compliment I can give him is that I didn’t even notice he was on the field for the first half hour I watched today. That means there must have been absolutely zero fumbles.
I think Jonny Bairstow has done a very good job behind the stumps in recent years. However, Foakes is obviously a class above him with the gloves. And a couple of classes above Jos Buttler too. Young Ben’s hands are so soft. He could advertise Fairy Liquid.