The Over: Sri Lanka v England – 2nd Test, Day 3

This is an experience that we haven’t had for a while – watching England play themselves in a dominating position with the bat. As long as they don’t have to chase more than, say, 72, we think they’ve got a pretty good chance:

We may as well start with the innings of the match and probably the series (sorry Mahela, but this was more of a game-changer). Pietersen’s knock was imperious and we’re not going to spend too much time listing superlatives because it would just be tautological. Simply put, this was one of the best innings in the context of a game that we’ve ever seen (the exact opposite of this from Brad Haddin). It’s not that often that you see a batsman who makes all others around him look like amateurs but KP did today. After we’d said yesterday that scoring at a walk looked like the sensible way forward, we expected today to be similarly leisurely paced. Trott looked fairly fluent, but Cook continued in crawler gear and we didn’t have high hopes that KP would be able to rein in his natural style, based on his past record. However, he didn’t need to. Mostly playing straight and demonstrating extraordinary power, Pietersen looked a class apart. When Ian Bell got out, you could see him shake his head as though he didn’t know how Kev was doing it. Neither did we. Likewise Matt Prior, arguably the second most natural hitter in the side after KP, couldn’t keep up. Magnificent stuff.

It was so good we’re going to carry on talking about it but this time with our statto hats on. Pietersen scored 51% more runs today than he has throughout the whole of the winter thus far (100 runs in 8 innings). He now has 20 Test tons and is the all-time leader in international centuries for England. Rather an interesting stat is that he has scored 9 of his 20 tons (45%) in the last Test of a series (which account for 30% of the games he’s played). His average in these final Tests is 58.64, nearly 10 runs more than his career average. Maybe he just plays well when the chips are down (or when the series is already over) or perhaps it takes him time to get warmed up (he’s only scored 5 of his tons in the first Test of a series). Even so, it’s a mildly strange anomaly.

And for a third and final bit on KP, the major controversy of the day was the switch-hits that weren’t. Dilshan and Pietersen had one of the least eventful exchanges in Test match history, with zero balls bowled, three false starts and one wrongly awarded official warning. We’re planning to do a full piece on the switch-hit shortly, but in the meantime our view is that if you’re skilled enough to play the shot, you should be able to. We know we’re not! Show us the place in the laws of the game where it in any way inhibits the choice of shot the batsman can play – oh that’s right, it doesn’t. Some wishy-washy directive from the MCC isn’t enough to ban the shot and from what we could see, Pietersen was playing within the rules. Yes it should be fair, but if you want to make things more difficult for yourself by changing to something less natural while a man is hurling a glorified rock at you, you should be well within your rights.

How marvelous to see Graeme Swann batting in his England cap today. More of this please. It reminded us of days of yore, when men showed pluck and courage by batting without helmets, when smoking 40 a day on the boundary was considered athletic, when life was black-and-white and always accompanied by jolly newsreel music and… when we hadn’t been born yet. Do check out the link for a wonderful collection of videos, but be prepared to waste several days of your life.

A world away from the sauna of Colombo, the English county season got underway today. It was a toasty 5 degrees in Leeds, where they’d only just managed to get rid of all the snow from the pitch (snow joke) in order to play. It’s pretty early by anyone’s standards to be playing though, don’t you think? Rather ominously for England, Vernon Philander has so far taken 3-21 from 12 overs in his first outing for Somerset at Taunton. If that’s what he’s like on the Autobahn at the County Ground, who knows what he’ll be like on a bowler’s wicket. We’d like to know whose bright idea it was to give this man extra practice at bowling in English conditions what with the series to come this summer.

And finally, we noticed the sight below while watching earlier on. What a wonderful antithesis to the technology-driven international game these days and more than slightly unintentionally brilliant. At least this scoreboard never breaks down. There’s not a lot that can go wrong with paint and nails.

Hawkeye is drawn by hand.

Over.

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