Shouldn’t you be asleep? I’m glad you’re not; it’s nice to have the company. Now, pay attention. All being well, England will play 17 Tests this year. That’s not great news for Jimmy Anderson’s rectus femoris, or any of his other muscles, or any of the other fast bowlers’ muscles, but it is good news for locked-down sports fans. Even at 3.29am, Test cricket is a vaccine for the soul.
Yep, England are about to start their two-Test series in Sri Lanka, the one originally scheduled for last March, a more innocent time when we thought awkward elbow bumps might keep Covid at bay. Both games will be played at Galle, so for the next 10 days you should have only one Byrds song in your subconscious. Galle is the most spin-friendly pitch in world cricket, the scene of a many a low-scoring dogfight down the years, and local experts expect more of the same.
England won in Galle 18 months ago en route to a 3-0 series victory, a terrific result for which they deserved more credit. That was then and this is now. For a variety of reasons, many of the stars of that series – Ben Foakes, Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, Keaton Jennings, Adil Rashid – won’t be playing this time. Rory Burns and Jofra Archer are also missing.
But England have improved in the last 12 months, and Joe Root’s exciting young side are aiming for a fourth consecutive series win. The last England team to do that were Andrew Strauss’s world-beaters a decade ago.
There are so many variables that all results are possible, from 2-0 Sri Lanka to 2-0 England. I was going to say I can’t wait to find out the result, but that’s not really true. Test cricket is the sport with the lowest GI, one that gives us time to enjoy the subtle momentum shifts, consider the many subplots and occasionally shout OH FFS! a little too loudly at 4.24am when England lose their third wicket.
See, the mind is racing and they haven’t even bowled a ball. Test cricket is back. Life feels a peedie bit better already.
The match starts at 10am local time, 4.30am GMT.