I’ll be honest, the Sri Lanka test series has rather crept up on me. One moment I was back at my old Cambridge college collecting an MA as reward for staying sane and out of jail for a few years (barely), the next I was watching a promising England bowling performance put into context by an abject batting display.
A double dose of déjà vu: being drunk on questionable red wine in Girton bar took me hurtling back to my undergraduate days; witnessing England’s top order crumble against sub-continent spin and we’re back in the desert and the best forgotten Pakistan series. The only question is, whose prat-fall was more embarrassing? Trott’s post-stumping pole-axing by Jayawardene, or, a certain MA (Cantab.), who can only be identified as ‘TK’, ploughing through one of the bar’s booths. At least TK had the excuse of being several pints to the worse.
Now the hangover has cleared, the 1st test is poised at an intriguing position. As appears to be a trend in modern test cricket, the match has got ahead of itself and, on the eve of day three, 25 of the potential 40 wickets have already fallen.
The draw is effectively out of play – available at 50/1 (Betfair) – and is only worth backing if you know a good rain dance. Back on the spreads, with the Sri Lankans at 84/5, Sporting Index go 176-184 on the home side’s total 2nd innings runs. If you’re brave enough, I think this could well be worth taking on and selling: the Lankan’s 1st innings century-maker Jayawardene is already back in the hutch and, should Swann and Anderson get it right tomorrow morning, one can easily see Sri Lanka struggling to get many more than 120.
Even if this were to happen, England would still be facing a last innings chase of 245 and I can’t imagine many would make them favourites – selling England at 7.5 on the outright index would still seem to be the call here.
Update – 28/3, 13:00
COP: Sri Lanka 2nd inns 214 all out, England 111/2 (target 340)
So Sri Lanka managed a few more than 176 thanks to handy partnerships for the last 2 wickets. However, you could have traded out for a healthy profit if you’d moved when the score was at 127/8.
England are up to 9-10.5 on the win index, but they are chasing a record target and, should they lose even more than 1 wicket in the first session tomorrow, that price will drop swiftly.
Update – 29/3 13:00
Result: England 2nd inns 264 all out (Trott 112) – Sri Lanka beat England by 75 runs
In the end it was not with a bang but a whimper that England folded to defeat in Galle, losing their final 5 wickets for 12 runs. However, hope of an England victory was alive with Trott and Prior comfortable at the crease – England’s price on the outright index rose as high as 16.5-18 before Prior’s freak dismissal. To me England’s price always seemed inflated and, having sold at 7.5 on day two and 9 at close on day three, I continued to sell through the Prior/Trott partnership on day 4 feeling that England were only ever one wicket away from trouble.
It was with a mixture of pleasure and disappointment that I was proven correct.