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First day/ Galle

It is always exciting to visit a new stadium for the first time. I certainly was not disappointed by the International Cricket Ground at Galle.

It’s situated so close to the sea fort that one of the best views of it is from the ramparts. Seeing the spectators gathered there in silhouette along the skyline reminded me of that final scene in Zulu where the warriors gather on the escarpment.

The amenities within the stadium are less attractive. To the right of the main stand where I sat in a corporate hospitality box were two low stands, the type you might see in a Vauxhall Conference Club.

I have never been a fan of boxes. I don’t like to be insulated from play by a glass wall and find them claustrophobic. Nonetheless in the front row behind the Sri Lankan players I was afforded a decent view of the proceedings.

The local hero is Rangara Herath who took his 100th wicket at the Ground in what is his final match.

However Pereira with 4-70 was the most effective of the Sri Lanka spinners.

As for England, with a Foakes, Stokes and Woakes in the squad my mind went to that eccentric candidate of many a constituency Commander Bill Boaks of the Air, Road Safety and White Democratic Monarchist party who at Glasgow Hillhead received all of 5 votes, less than the number required to nominate him.

Amongst the people he unsuccessfully sued were Prince Philip, Princess Anne, Lady Attlee, a notoriously bad driver who chauffeured her husband Clement everywhere and Rab Butler.

At 10-2 I thought it was the same old, same old, England and we are still a long way away from resolving the first three positions.

At 103-5 I feared the worst.

At lunch the general view was the English batters were out because of profligate strokes and poor judgment.

Yet we have always been strong from 4th-8th position. Even in the great Ashes victory of 2005 time and time again it was the third tranche of Freddie Flintoff, Geraint Jones and Ashley Giles that came to our rescue.

The unlikely hero of the first day, as he was selected for his wicketkeeping, was Ben Foakes who was unbeaten at 87.

He was measured, he was controlled and he was assisted by some sterile field placing as Sri Lanka put no pressure on him and his young Surrey partner Sam Curran.

I was so pleased Curran was selected.

He is a left armer offering different options and enough of a batter to call himself an all rounder. His test batting average is 36, bowling one 23.

At stumps at 321 England are more than in the game.

In our box were a few in their MCC ties and jackets, one of whom complained of the amenities. Okay, it was not the Mound Stand debenture section where you have a slick lunch service and pay £100 for it.

It was a lunch of a basic buffet in an airless room where you did well not to trip on the carpet but this is third world Sri Lanka where any deficiencies are more than countered by the warmth and friendliness of the locals.

Ayubowan  (May you live long) is the formal greeting. We have all taken to our jolly guide Don who expresses his deepest concern that we should be enjoying his country. Which we are.

Mercifully we did not lose one ball to the rain but I suspect we will.

About Douglas Heath

Douglas Heath began his lifelong love affair with cricket as an 8 year-old schoolboy playing OWZAT? Whilst listening to a 160s Ashes series on the radio. He later became half-decent at doing John Arlott impressions and is a member of Middlesex County Cricket Club. He holds no truck at all with the T20 version on the game. More Posts