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The Beatles and cricket comparisons

After Australia’s first Test win over Sri Lanka in Galle, the two teams headed all the way over to Galle for the second.

Here’s the report card for the second Test.

Michael Bevan, circa 1997
Grade: A

“Any changes to the side, Pat?” was the question asked of Australian captain Pat Cummins at the toss. 

“Yes,” replied world cricket’s most Kryptonian skipper.

“Mitchell Starc replaces Travis Head in the ‘preventing Glenn Maxwell from playing Test cricket’ villain role.”

It was true. The previous day Cummins had teased Maxwellheads all around the world with the prospect that Maxwell was under consideration not as an alternative to Travis Head (rejoice, Headheads!) but instead as an alternative number eight to Mitchell Starc.

A wild prospect that had the cricket universe salivating for almost twenty-four full hours before Cummins revealed at the toss that we’d all been Punk’d. Oh, Patrick, you devil. If it had been anybody else who’d pulled such a prank, I’d have been furious with them. But I can’t stay mad at you.

Still, a dreadful shame. Because I was 1000% ready for Glenn Maxwell as Michael Bevan, circa 1997.

The Fab Four
Grade: B-

Most of the first day was spent with first Marnus Labuschagne then Steve Smith scoring centuries as Australia, having chosen to bat, made their way to 5/298 at the end of the first day.

Of the two centurions, it was Smith’s that felt most notable. Having been stuck on 27 Test centuries for eighteen months, it was a blessed relief for him to move his tally on a notch.

Most of the credit for the ton is due to Joe Root, a fellow member of the so-called ‘Fab Four’ batters of world cricket. Root, the Paul McCartney of the quartet, had been churning out hit after hit in recent times, leaving Kane ‘George Harrison’ Williamson in his wake, before catching and overtaking Virat ‘John Lennon’ Kohli and Steve ‘Ringo’ Smith.

But it was as if Root reaching his 28th century in England’s most recent bonkers run chase had unlocked something in Smith, who remains a petty man. A petty, fidgety man.

Good on Root for showing Smith that it was possible for a modern day batter to score 28 Test centuries. But also good on Smith as well for not waiting until his 224th innings to get there. Both clever batters in their own ways.

Burnt Reviews
Grade: C

The second and third days consisted primarily of Sri Lanka undertaking a carefree stroll to inevitable first-innings parity.

Nothing seemed to distract Dimuth Karunaratne (86), Kusal Mendis (85), Angelo Mathews (52), Kamindu Mendis (61) from their leisurely saunter of run accumulation.

Australia, meanwhile, were playing on a whole different level to their Sri Lanka counterparts. Pat Cummins and his team burned through their reviews as swiftly as was humanly possible, leaving them with none left when Sri Lanka were still only a few wickets down.

Some men just want to watch the reviews burn, you might think. Pretty sloppy.

Sloppy like a fox.

What Australia realised was that by burning their reviews so quickly, it saves them fifteen seconds every appeal when they don’t have to chat among themselves about whether to send a not out decision upstairs. Fifteen seconds per appeal might not sound like much. But it adds up. And the extra hours they save each day by operating without reviews makes Australia correspondingly less likely to lose World Test Championship points for slow over rates. And, hence, more likely to make the final.

Great forward planning. 

Besides, if they really want to review, say, a feathered catch behind, Alex Carey had a loophole. By simply being sufficiently adamant about a non-existent stumping, Carey more or less forces the square leg umpire to send the decision upstairs for a check. And, according to ICC protocol, they check the catch at that point as well.

Why Carey didn’t use this loophole when Dinesh Chandimal got a touch on one from Mitchell Starc that wasn’t given out shall remain an exercise for the reader.

Dinesh Chandimal of Sri Lanka celebrates after reaching his century.

Dinesh Chandimal of Sri Lanka celebrates after reaching his century. (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)

Dinesh Chandimal
Grade: A-

It was an expensive oversight from Carey, because Chandimal went on to score a magnificent double century, shepherding the tail and pushing Sri Lanka not just past Australia’s first innings total but to a substantial lead of 180 runs.

The Chandimauling culminated with him hitting Mitchell Starc for consecutive sixes, including one that flew all the way out of the ground and hit some passing teens.

Australia, of course, fumed that the first Test precedent of a ball being hit out of the ground signalling that light was unfit for further play wasn’t adhered to here. It might have saved them a lot of second innings batting.

Or, as it turned out, not a lot at all.

Repeated Surnames
Grade: F

In the first innings, debutant Prabath Jayasuriya took 6/118, enough for former England, now Sri Lanka coach Chris Silverwood to take him aside before Australia came out to bat in their second dig:

“Look, Prabath. The six-fer is good. But 118 runs? That’s quite a lot. Think you can, I dunno, halve it?”

And so he did, taking 6/59 in his second bowling spell to finish player of the match, bamboozling Australia, as they collapsed to 151, efficiently burning each and every review as they did so. 

Still, ‘Jayasuriya’, huh? That sounds annoyingly familiar. Should teams only be allowed to have one player of each surname in their entire Test history? Common sense says yes.

Sure, it means Australia lose Steve Smith and Mark Waugh and every Marsh post-Rod from their cricketing pantheon. But worth it, certainly, to avoid losing in Sri Lanka by an innings in four days. 

Or maybe it’s too convoluted. Maybe we should instead just be happy for Silverwood that he was finally able to find a team capable of beating Australia.

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