The Englishmen take their cricket very seriously. They demand substance, whether it’s watching cricket or reading a book. They need something to chew on. They don’t look for nutrition in capsules. They want a whole meal. An Englishman’s vision on cricket can take an intense nature when a game is played at Lord’s, the home of cricket. This is where every Sri Lankan cricket fan will have his eyes or thoughts fixed on for the next couple of days when the third Test between the two nations is played. The cricket Sri Lanka plays at this prestigious venue better be good because the pride of the ‘Lions’ is at stake, largely because they have lost the three Test series 2-0 already.
It’s a challenge playing against an opposition which is constantly talking about improving. This is what’s spoken of in the England dressing room. Coach Trevor Bayliss was quoted in the newspaper in having said that England have a long way to go before competing against the best teams in the world. Given the host’s inspiring performance, there is no likelihood of there being changes to the side that played the first Test, despite Nick Compton struggling to get runs. This also means the Sri Lankans also have one more battle, in Test form, against Jimmy Anderson.
When the tour began some weeks ago, the question was whether the Sri Lankans could cope with the pace and swing generated by the England fast bowlers. But these English cricketers have gone a step beyond that. Anderson’s menacing bowling has acquired a new feature. He is bowling to a perfect line and length. Anderson has reached the number one raking in the world as a bowler. He has also taken enough wickets in this present England-Sri Lanka Test series and might be thinking of taking a break for the final Test. But England looks at him as the number one strike bowler and will want to pursue with him.
Sri Lanka’s batsmen need to be positive. The way they batted in the second innings of the second Test showed there is bite in the batting. Dimuth Karunaratne has complained about the warm-up games saying that the England opposition was weak and as a result the visitors couldn’t get a taste of the real English fast bowling. The ‘Lions’ must learn fast that when the host team is smart, it doesn’t play into the opposition’s hands that easily. The art of surprising visitors is perhaps old as Test cricket itself.
Skipper Mathews has been a tower of strength for the visitors, carrying his bat in the face of the hostile England bowling. He made 80 in Sri Lanka’s second innings score of 475 all out. Dinesh Chandimal proved he could be counted upon when he put the opposition bowling to the sword with a smashing 126, also in the team’s second innings. Sri Lanka needs to read the bowling right and make a challenging score of over 400 runs in the first innings if they are to take the fight up to the Englishmen. The Sri Lankans can’t use the first innings as a warm-up because England will never relax and will always come hard at the islanders during this entire tour.
Anyone who has been there or played at this venue will rate Lord’s as something special. Like Buddhists going to Bodhi Gaya in India, Moslems to Mecca in Saudi Arabia and Christians to Lourdes in Southern France, an international cricketer’s experience is not complete if he doesn’t play at Lord’s. There is so much history associated with the place that it is one venue in the world that reminds us that Test cricket is 139 years old!
The cricket experience that one gets is so much different to what you get at other venues. Spectators must be correctly attired. Gentlemen wanting to sit at the Pavilion, including the Pavilion Concourse, will not be admitted if they aren’t attired in lounge suits or tailor made jackets, trousers, shirt, tie or cravat and shoes and socks.
This is also a venue where the spectator doesn’t wish to be disturbed or distracted from the cricket that’s played. This is also a place which reminds the spectator that they need to watch, listen and read if you are to follow the game. The Lord’s culture can change a spectator’s perspective on cricket.