Danny Byrne’s Review
I discovered that the ticket they refused to give me yesterday for “an unavoidable circumstance” was not due to the Galle CC Stand being closed, but rather that the authorities realised they could make more money by selling access to the Galle CC Stand in a more creative manner. As the Galle CC Stand is principally a Member’s Stand it has suddenly become possible to purchase membership for a week for the sum of 7500 Rupees. All I had to do was try to locate the office of the Club Secretary Mr. Pitigala and hand over the money after 8.30 am and I would have access to a Bar, a Restaurant and comfortable seating for five days. It would have been nice to have handed it over in used 20 Rupee notes in a brown paper bag, but I didn’t have time to go to the bank and a stationary shop in advance. On arrival at the ground I was looking for a sign saying “Tourist fleecing – this way,” but the operation was a bit more discreet and I was fortunate to have been tipped off by an existing Life Member. I now have a nice credit card sized bright blue temporary membership card and I was even issued with a receipt for the 7500 Rupees. Naturally there was no explanation as to what passed as “an unavoidable circumstance” or why my initial purchase of a 5 Day pass for 5000 Rupees wasn’t sufficient to gain entry. Once I climbed the stairs and reached the members enclosure I was promptly informed that the Bar would remain closed due to a religious holiday.
As many of you will know there are basically two meteorological zones in Sri Lanka – a Wet Zone and a Dry Zone. The Wet Zone takes up approximately 30 per cent of the land mass yet it contains all the cricket grounds used for Test Matches. Hambantota and Dambulla have significantly less rainfall at this time of the year, but are never considered for Tests. It rains in Galle and Colombo all the year round with the levels of precipitation at their highest in April, May, October and November. As with ground selection in India the process of choosing where to host a Test Match appears to be a political decision taken in line with enabling rich people connected to certain Clubs to make money regardless of whether it is in the interest of the greater good of the game. Apparently it has been raining continuously for eight days in Colombo so it is just as well the current match isn’t scheduled to be played there.
Those of you who have never been to Sri Lanka might find this hard to believe but play began on time as indeed I expected it to despite all the rain yesterday and during the previous week. Hundreds of grounds staff would have been busy from first light getting the water off the covers to ensure the pitch was ready for 10 am. Kane Williamson won the toss and had no hesitation in electing to bat first. 99 remains the highest score for a successful fourth innings run chase at this ground and teams had previously elected to bat first at Galle 27 times out of 32. There were no surprises in the New Zealand eleven with Santner preferred to de Grandhomme for the all-rounder’s role. The Sri Lankans elected to go with two fast bowlers in Lakmal and Kumara and left out the left-arm wrist spinner Sandakan. Dickwella was selected as wicket-keeper ahead of Chandimal and the opener Thirimanne was surprisingly retained at the expense of Oshado Fernando despite his impressive two Tests against South Africa in order to make room for Angelo Mathews. All the Sri Lankan players had numbers on their backs but without an index anywhere that spectators could refer to it was about as much use as a black and white Bird identification book.
Raval hit the first boundary of the day after 25 minutes cutting a short delivery from Kumara to the fence at point. Spin was introduced after only 7 overs and Dananjaya bowled a couple of overs from the Fort End before deciding to try his luck from the Pavilion End. The score was 21 – 0 from 14 overs after the first hour with the ball already turning for the mystery bowler. Latham’s first boundary came after 70 minutes from the 46th delivery faced with Kumara again dropping short and getting cut to the offside fence in his second spell. De Silva joined the attack and Latham started to deploy the sweep shot with increasing regularity. Raval hit de Silva for a couple of boundaries wide of mid-off in the same over and things were starting to look good for New Zealand until Latham was caught behind off Dananjaya for 30 with only 17 minutes remaining before the lunch interval ( 64–1 ). Williamson was caught by Frank off a leading edge at short mid-on three balls later ( 64 – 2 ) and Dananjaya had altered the course of the match dramatically within the space of four balls. Raval edged to slip in the last over of the morning session and at the interval the Kiwis had reached 71 – 3 from 30.2 overs following an excellent low catch from de Silva diving forward.
After the interval Taylor and Nicholls managed to rebuild the New Zealand innings by playing sensible cricket and rotating the strike as often as possible. The 50 partnership was completed from 93 balls and such was their composure against the spinners that both Lakmal and Kumara returned to try their luck from the Fort End each with four over spells. Dananjaya was rested for an hour and de Silva and Embuldeniya toiled away fruitlessly from the Pavilion End. Taylor completed his half century from 86 balls and the partnership was worth exactly 100 when Dananjaya returned at the Pavilion End and trapped Nicholls lbw attempting a sweep ( 171 – 4 ). Watling followed in similar fashion to the second ball of the last over before tea and Dananjaya had taken all 5 wickets (179–5 ).
The covers were brought on during the interval as menacing dark clouds appeared from behind the Fort. The threat of rain appeared to pass and play eventually resumed 15 minutes later than the scheduled restart after Tea. Santner and Taylor looked comfortable for half an hour before the ground sheet wallahs returned and managed to drag several sheets of tarpaulin on to the outfield before the inevitable deluge arrived. A family of Red-wattled Lapwings had been fielding at deep fine leg and the youngsters who were still too small to fly ended up running around helplessly on the large blue sheets with mum and dad flying overhead shrieking at the grounds staff. I left the chaos and wandered off to look for Syrie the tuk tuk driver with the score 203 – 5 from 67 overs. Taylor ended the day 86 not out and we’ll all be back again early tomorrow to try to find out what happened to the Lapwings.