Galle – Day 1

Ben Foakes. Where have you been? Maybe there’s some magic spell which automatically turns England No.7s into world beaters (and our number 3s into frogs) or maybe, just maybe, the selectors and all the so-called experts got Surrey’s keeper all wrong. This lad can bat. He’s justified his place in the side and he hasn’t even put his keeping gloves on yet.

For years we’ve heard that Ben Foakes was the best pure keeper in the country. There was just one problem: his batting was a bit pants. Well, not total pants, but he seemed to be tarred with the same brush as James Foster and Chris Read. In other words, he’d let England down because he wouldn’t score the runs that modern keepers are supposed to provide.

Maybe it was the benign wicket (which didn’t really turn much), or maybe it was Sri Lanka’s poor performance with the ball, but Foakes certainly didn’t look like a mug with the willow today. He looked top class – not only the best batsman in the side, but also the batsman most suited to playing a proper, patient, test innings.

Time will tell if he can replicate this kind of performance on a regular basis, and in all conditions, but one has to admit that it’s been a brilliant and highly promising start. What’s more, Foakes’ first class record suggests that he’s a proper batsman. He averages 41 for Surrey with 8 hundreds. That’s better than many of the so called specialists England have tried over the years including James Vince and Tom Westley. His domestic record is also significantly better than Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali’s. Food for thought indeed.

They often say that it’s better to be a lucky football manager than a good one, and maybe the cricketing Gods smile favourably on Ed Smith. No doubt he’ll get plenty of credit for unearthing another star – even though Foakes was ignored in the original tour party. Perhaps some things are just meant to be? Personally I’m delighted as I’ve always loved the idea of England fielding a silky specialist gloveman. Now it looks like we may be able to play the best keeper without another debate about ‘the modern way’ and whether he justifies his place as a batsman.

The other star of the day was Sam Curran who was preferred to Stuart Broad. I thought this was a bizarre decision as I don’t really rate Curran’s bowling, expect him to be innocuous abroad, and think he’ll end up as a batsman who bowls at bit rather than the other way around. In fact, had Curran made his debut in those unforgiving Australian conditions like his brother and Craig Overton, I doubt he’d be anywhere near the side right now.

Having said that, underestimating Curran is always a bad idea. What’s more, he’s more likely to swing the ball like Chaminda Vaas than Stuart Broad. His left-arm angle will be helpful too. Therefore, if the plan is to give young Sam a few overs with the new cherry, and then let him patrol the outfield for a prolonged period while the spinners do their thing, then maybe the decision makes sense.

What’s more, Sam the batsman is a hugely promising cricketer. He played fantastically well yet again today and England really needed his runs. I still think it’s daft to pick an inferior bowler just because he’ll score more runs (especially when he’s batting as low as No.9) but one can’t argue with the results today. Foakes needed a foil and Sam played the role to perfection before striking a few lusty boundaries of his own.

So those were the positives. But what about the negatives? I think we all know where this is going …

England’s top order still looks utterly hopeless. It was so depressing to be 100-5 yet again. The faces change but the results – or most importantly the approach – rarely do. Burns was a bit unlucky (although he really shouldn’t be playing with his hands outside the line of his body like that), Jennings played well albeit a bit frenetically, but too many of the other batsman got out to poor strokes. What is it with England batsmen and the sweep?

There was also a golden duck for Moeen Ali. It looked like a good ball but poor Mo’s defence looked as watertight as a paper bag. I just don’t understand the logic in batting him there. I would much prefer England to try and find a permanent No.3 who can take on the Aussies next summer. Using Mo as a stop-gap smacks of the government’s Brexit policy: keep kicking the can down the road until, erm, we get to the Ashes with no deal at a pivotal position in the side.

At 321-8 England are now in a handy position. It might have been better but it could’ve been a whole lot worse earlier in the day. I expect them to reach 350+ tomorrow and then put the Lankans under some pressure. At least I hope so!

A quick word, before I sign off, about the hosts. I was really disappointed by their performance. Their fielding was poor; they showed little urgency in the field; their field placings were bizarre at times; and they really let England off the hook. I was also completely underwhelmed by their plethora of spinners.

Maybe it was just the unresponsive nature of the surface but I expected Sri Lanka to be better than this. Their recent record isn’t great but it’s not too shabby at home. I’d be a little worried if I was one of their supporters. Replacing their great players of the recent past looks a very tall order.

James Morgan

2018-11-07T18:14:16+00:00November 6th, 2018|SL v Eng 2018|34 Comments


  1. muffin November 6, 2018 at 7:23 pm - Reply

    In the slightly rancorous argument I had two threads ago with CricketCricketCricket about where Root should bat, I said that the 4 might come in only one ball after the three – I rather regret that comment now!
    I’ve always said that Sam looks a better bat than Tom, and he’s starting to look at home in the Test environment.
    At least 3 horrible dismissals in the first 5! I thought Buttler was a bit unlucky as he played for non-existent spin.

    • Cricketcricketcricket November 6, 2018 at 9:31 pm - Reply

      Well when you put Jennings, burns and moeeen in the top 3 you’re asking to be skittled more times than not . Doesn’t mean it’s a valid reason to move your best bat who is a 4/5 higher

  2. Simon H November 6, 2018 at 7:55 pm - Reply

    Funny how the one guy who could bat at a tempo suited to the conditions and traditional to Test match cricket was the guy who’s had the least contact with the coaching staff.

    No worries, they’ll soon knock it out of him. “Boldness, Ben, boldness….”

    • jennyah46 November 6, 2018 at 9:03 pm - Reply

      Oh don’t!

    • Gareth November 6, 2018 at 9:13 pm - Reply

      Couple of things

      1) Ed Smith has no official say on team selection overseas. He provides the party and then captain and coach pick the team, and it looks like Foakes was in because they didn’t fancy one of Ed Smith, Genius At Cricket’s “funky” selections (Denly). Ed Smith also provided them with a spare, spare keeper (Pope) who it seems they didn’t fancy either.

      2) The digs from the comments at Bayliss and Ramprakash have some merit, but I’m pretty sure Foakes spent last winter hanging around them as a spare part in The Ashes squad, and went back to have a pretty prolific season at Surrey.

  3. dangermash November 6, 2018 at 7:56 pm - Reply

    But if you bring in a specialist number 3 and move Mo down the order, who do you leave out? Buttler? Foakes? A spinner? A quickie? That’s the logic for playing Mo at 3. Me, I’d put Root at 3 and have Mo down the order somewhere.

    But then when the Aussies come over, we really do need a specialist 3. Two spinners dropped and a quickie recalled frees up a space in the team for him.

    • muffin November 6, 2018 at 8:01 pm - Reply

      There aren’t many places where we would need to play 3 1/2 spinners, so the balance will sort itself. I do still think that, of the squad we have over there, Root is the only choice for 3.

      btw, is it making some sort of point being made that so many posters here persist in misspelling Buttler’s name?

    • James November 7, 2018 at 9:39 am - Reply

      Specialist no 3, you say. Who?

  4. Colin November 6, 2018 at 8:37 pm - Reply

    It’s Guy Foakes Day!

    • Elaine SImpson-Long November 6, 2018 at 8:52 pm - Reply

      Oh for Foakes sake! knew somebody would say that …..
      His name is just crying out for jokes along with Stokes and Woakes
      I presume they will be known as Foaksy, Stokesy and Wokesy in future

    • James November 6, 2018 at 10:43 pm - Reply

      Surely the end of his innings will be greeted with “Th th th th that’s all Foakes”! I’ll get my coat. Foakes Woakes and Stokes will be England’s oaks if they can actually all play well at the same time.

      • Marc Evans November 6, 2018 at 11:30 pm - Reply

        The last time something like this could have happened was if Dilly and Willy played for us against an Aussie side including Lillee. Did this ever happen and did Lillee ever get dismissed caught Willy bowled Dilly?

        • James November 7, 2018 at 9:37 am - Reply

          Dunno, but it does bring to mind the classic Brian Johnston comment: “The bowler’s Holding, the batsman’s Willey”.

          • Marc Evans November 7, 2018 at 12:10 pm - Reply

            Along with another Jonnerism, concerning a player called Short, where a big hitting batsman was caught Short in front of the pavilion.

        • Steve Omant November 7, 2018 at 11:01 am - Reply

          December 18, 1979 in Perth WA.

  5. Hungerpang November 6, 2018 at 8:44 pm - Reply

    It’s quite common for new batsmen to make runs, especially ones who are called up late, because the opposition haven’t had chance to analyse his game and find the weaknesses to probe. Great start, but let’s judge him after 10 games.

    • Elaine SImpson-Long November 6, 2018 at 8:52 pm - Reply

      I hate to agree with you but I will. Once the fell hand of Ramps gets hold of him…

      • James November 7, 2018 at 9:38 am - Reply

        Be fair. Ramps was one of our most successful first class batsmen. Pity he didn’t translate it into test form.

        • Marc Evans November 7, 2018 at 12:15 pm - Reply

          He did have to bat against some of the most fearsome quickies in cricket history, and though he didn’t score a hatfull orf runs he did occupy the crease longer than most managed. It would be interesting to see what the present day encumbents would do against those bowlers.

  6. Elaine SImpson-Long November 6, 2018 at 8:54 pm - Reply

    I woke early this morning having totally forgotten the match was on and then thought well I am up early so see what is on and there it was. Really, this series is hardly raising tremors of excitement but hardly surprising after the ODI;s that looked more like swimming galas than anything else.

    But I found myself enjoying watching the england team play and this is the first time i have felt this way in years. I don’t go in for deep analysis why because I realised why within ten minutes. No Cook, no Broad and no Anderson….

  7. Harmy's Head November 6, 2018 at 9:07 pm - Reply

    James – please do stop going on about Australia and the Ashes, and concentrate on the series in front of us! Mo had a bad day today, but batting him at 3 here suits a purpose – allowing us to play 3 spinners, which is important (especially if one of them has an off day as Dananjaya did for SL today).

    It’s great that Foakes batted so well today – even though our plethora of all-rounders allows us the luxury of a “specialist” keeper, good to see him shut the naysayers up and show that he can bat. Maybe the fact that SL hadn’t seen much of him before helped – it’s worth noting though that Prior, Ambrose and Buttler all started with a bang in Tests. Would be great if he can establish himself and allow us to play Bairstow and/or Buttler as specialist batsmen.

    • Cricketcricketcricket November 6, 2018 at 9:33 pm - Reply

      Moeen isn’t good enough and just like buttler.. Judge Foakes when he faces decent bowling.

  8. Paul November 6, 2018 at 9:14 pm - Reply

    No doubt they’ll stick Foakes in as a batting specialist number 3 for the next test

    • oreston November 6, 2018 at 10:09 pm - Reply

      …and then drop him at the end of the series when he fails to deliver batting at three. Setting him up to fail will then provide the perfect excuse to hand the gloves back to Jonny. Simples! ’tis the England way…

  9. Doug M November 6, 2018 at 9:19 pm - Reply

    Well I’ve been watching Foakes at Surrey for 3 years and it’s taken England this long to realise he’s not only the best keeper in the country but an ideal batsman for test cricket. But if course Bayliss never watches county cricket so he wouldn’t know anyway. Give Burns a run but England’s top 5 are crap including Root at present I’m afraid. What the…k is Moen doing at 3? Their “array of shots” and lack of patience is suited to t20/50 over, not tests. Foakes has a patient simple technique that no doubt the England coaches will try to change. But well done Ben and Sam, ahem Surrey boys of course!

  10. Jackie Litherland November 6, 2018 at 10:37 pm - Reply

    I was very surprised to see that Foakes had a FC average over 40. For a ‘pure wicket keeper’ that seemed very good. Denly by contrast has FC average of 36. So maybe Foakes does have the ability to deliver runs as well as keep well. Early days but he isn’t going out there just to whack the ball. If he keeps really well then it would be great for him to take over the gloves. I was always a Chris Read fan. Read turned himself into a very useful batsman and a great fighter for his County. England lost faith too soon. Read was a world class keeper. Ridiculously he was dropped because he was too quiet behind the stumps.

  11. Marc Evans November 6, 2018 at 11:20 pm - Reply

    As Foakes himself said the ball was a different animal in the morning session, so I don’t really place much credence on the old chestnut bandwagon of how crap our early order is at the moment. The second innings will give us more idea of how the early batsman cope with the Sri Lankan bowlers, as they should face easier conditions than the lower order on days 3 and 4, as the pitch turns more. Foakes certainly showed he was a man with a plan, playing positive yet sensible cricket and not letting the bowlers dominate. The disappointments for me were the dismissals of a set Jennings and the recently responsible Stokes, both of whom gave their wickets away with really poor strokes. Burns was a little unfortunate, as everyone caught down the leg side is to a degree and Butler got one that kept low. However, once again we seemed to get caught up in trying to hit our way out of trouble, epitomised by Root yorking himself when set as we bludgeoned on at 5 an over. This became an easier task later on in the day when the pitch had dried out, so Curran and Rashid were able to apply the long handle to good effect in supporting Foakes.
    Curran is becoming quite a talisman for this England side, as his bullishly competitive batting clearly upsets bowlers and his consistency playing this way means he’s a difficult man to drop at present. As the seamers will get precious few overs anyway I don’t disagree with his selection for this game. An effective batting line up down to number 9 takes a lot of pressure away from the inexperienced top order.
    Disappointing that you James once again attribute a ‘funky’ selection to luck as it’s under Ed Smith’s auspices, even if he’s not on the official selection committee for overseas tours. If Bairstow had been fit most people would have selected him to play as wicketkeeper batsman, something he clearly relishes. He’s never going to improve his keeping skills without challenges like this so it makes perfect sense.

  12. Hamish November 7, 2018 at 6:26 am - Reply

    To be fair to the selectors, it’s not as if the choice of Bairstow as wk/batsman has been a failure. After a couple of dodgy drops in SA in 2015, his keeping has been good so the only question was whether he would offer more as a batter without the gloves which was questionable based on his stats with/without gloves.

    Where they’ve got it wrong was by picking Jennings and Denly. Despite his 46, can’t see Jennings making runs in tests and what was the point in having Denly here? Now we have the ridiculous situation of Mo being yo-yo’d up and down the order again. Easy to criticise him but really feel sorry for the guy – I actually think he might have become a decent test middle ordee bat if he hadn’t been made 1st choice spinner, then opener, then all-rounder/ lower ordr biffer, then second spinner, then no 3, back to all rounder, now no.3 again. Have I missed a role? (kit-man/ bus driver)

    • Jackie Litherland November 7, 2018 at 11:03 am - Reply

      That’s a really good point. Lack of clear idea how to build a Test side.

      • Hamish November 7, 2018 at 3:52 pm - Reply

        Isn’t it as much a lack of players who have stepped up to fill the problem positions at the top of the order since Strauss and Trott went and a surfeit of players able to bat between 5 and 8?

        You can blame selectors for a number of things, but everybody is getting a fair crack and nobody has stepped up.

        • Cricketcricketcricket November 7, 2018 at 6:45 pm - Reply

          A crack of the whip as a middle order bat in the top 4 is pointless . These players aren’t equips mentally or technically for top 3 batting

    • Marce Evans November 7, 2018 at 12:23 pm - Reply

      As I understand it Jennings was preferred on this tour as he has a better record against spin than the alternatives that were considered. It is a unique tour for the lack of seam bowling on these pitches, so I wouldn’t read too much into it as a building for the future exercise. Seems to me more a needs must one.

  13. Simon H November 7, 2018 at 12:31 pm - Reply

    Crikey, I thought Rob Smyth’s previous The Spin plunged the depths but this week’s gets into that hole and continues to dig.

    The mantle for ridiculous media-fawning has truly been passed to Ed Smith. People can make their own minds up as to why they think that is but it’s definitely a ‘thing’ that certain people in the ‘leadership group’ get immediate and excessive praise that goes beyond what any rational assessment of what they’ve actually achieved.

  14. Simon H November 7, 2018 at 6:43 pm - Reply

    Just noticed that Dave Richardson said a couple of days ago, “”The ICC’s vision for cricket is a ‘sport enjoyed by the world'”.

    Two things strike me about this:
    1) Previously the vision was to make cricket the world’s favourite sport so that’s a quiet scaling back.
    2) “Enjoyed by” is a very deliberate phrase. Not “played by”. The rest of the world can be lucky enough to cough up big bucks to watch the Big Three and franchise competitions. They can forget playing the game as teams although individuals can become itinerent labourers flogging themselves around the franchise circuit.

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