Warwickshire 159 for 7 (Bresnan 47*, Sibley 43, Siddle 4-36) vs Essex
That long-awaited return to a county cricket ground proved to be slow, bleak and joyless. And that was just Dom Sibley‘s innings. But by the time a filthy squall of rain blew across Chelmsford at 4.30pm to coat the ground in an unseasonably wintery glow of floodlights (and drive away each and every one of the 100-odd diehards at the Hayes Close End of the ground) Sibley’s stereotypically dour 43 from 120 balls had been trumped by another notable returnee to the fray.
When Essex won the 2019 County Championship title, amid emotional scenes at Taunton two years ago, Peter Siddle‘s presence had been conveyed via a cardboard cut-out in the corner of the dressing room. He had played an integral role in the triumph with 34 wickets at 20.08 in the first half of the campaign, before departing for his Ashes swansong, and then remaining sidelined by the pandemic throughout last summer’s Bob Willis Trophy triumph.
And so this was Siddle’s first outing at Chelmsford since July 2019 – when, as it happens, he’d claimed a first-innings five-for, also against Warwickshire – and his first chance to take formal receipt of that elusive winner’s medal, along with his county cap (No. 164, for those who like to keep tabs) during an on-field presentation during the lunch interval.
But before he’d had a chance to try out that new headgear for size, Siddle’s impact on the day’s events had been more than just ceremonial. The first of his four wickets took just three balls to arrive, as Will Rhodes fenced to fourth slip having withstood the new ball for 10 dour overs, and Siddle had doubled Warwickshire’s jeopardy before the end of his second over, as Rob Yates lost his middle stump to a nip-backer.
Jamie Porter added a third before lunch, as Pieter Malan kissed a beautiful angled delivery through to Tom Westley at third slip, but throughout a grim first session, Sibley endured with painstaking attrition – parked on the front dog like the part-man, part-bollard that he has been brought up to be, refusing to let the bowlers see anything but the maker’s name as he made up for lost time after his early-season finger break.
Sibley’s runs were scarce and hewn from granite – a first-ball clip for four off Porter was a freebie that never looked like tempting him into thinking his eye was in, and in fact almost a sixth of his final total came in one bizarre moment when Adam Wheater fielded a return from the deep and winged a shy away through fine leg, to gift his quarry a lesser-spotted seven.
Timing has never been at the core of Sibley’s game – although you might argue that his comic timing was spot-on in the circumstances. What more hearty fare could the Chelmsford faithful have wished for on such a blustery and soul-sapping morning, than the sight of 55 runs being chiselled out in 28 overs of the session, with Sibley himself dripping along at a personal rate of exactly one for every over, like the inexorable impact of gravity on the panes of a stained-glass window.
Even though he was dropped on 32 at leg slip (a position that Kane Williamson will no doubt have inked into his battle-plan) it still came as something of a shock when, in the first hour after lunch, Sibley was turned inside-out by the ever-excellent Sam Cook to give Simon Harmer the easiest of his two catches at second slip.
For the most part, Sibley had treated his stay like a live net. But, on a day when those in action of England’s probable middle order at Lord’s – Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope and Ben Foakes – contributed 0, 0 and 0 between them, the barnacle tendencies of their incumbent opener were made all the more valuable by hindsight.
Talking of hindsight, it seems extraordinary that Warwickshire would inflict such a scenario on themselves by choosing to bat first in such conditions, although given the knowledge of what Harmer tends to do on this ground in the fourth innings, it was perhaps a question of which bullet they would prefer to dodge. As it was, a scoreline of 76 for 5, on a day when barely any other contest had got beyond the opening pleasantries, was less than ideal by any standards.
But Warwickshire, to their credit, refused to buckle to the conditions. In the 40th over, Harmer’s first-ball proper (after a sighter over before lunch) was blatted high over long-on by a pre-emptive Michael Burgess, who manned the barricades alongside the inestimable Tim Bresnan with a gutsy 56-run stand for the sixth wicket.
But just when Burgess seemed to have weathered the worst of Essex’s threat, he was undone through a combination of bowler skill and personal misjudgement, as Siddle nipped a length ball off the seam to pluck out his off stump as he shouldered arms for 35.
Olly Stone – who would surely have relished cranking it up in these conditions – didn’t last long as Harmer swooped brilliantly to prise him out for 4, his right hand almost behind him as he plucked the edge to give Cook his second of the day.
But Bresnan, his stock seeming to rise as a county batsman with every passing year, endured through two closes – the first at tea when the apocalypse appeared to have ended any prospect of further play, and then after a further 2.4 overs in the late evening, in which time he flipped Porter over midwicket to finish as the day’s top scorer on 47 not out.
By then, Essex’s paltry returning crowd had fled for home. The circumstances of the post-lockdown reboot could not be less ideal for Chelmsford, a tight ground with a cramped perimeter, where numerous choke-points render social distancing impossible and so have limited their numbers to a handful. But at least those that were present were able to witness their table-topping outfit doing the needful on the field once again – in spite of Sibley and the weather doing their best to be further killjoys.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket
SL vs Ind T20I series
The two, as well as Krunal Pandya, will stay back in Sri Lanka for the time being
While Krunal was moved to an isolation facility immediately after he tested positive in both the Rapid Antigen and RT-PCR tests on July 27, the remaining eight players were staying at the team hotel, but separated from the rest of the touring party.
According to the Sri Lankan government’s guidelines, anyone testing positive for the virus needs to isolate for at least ten days and then clear a fresh round of tests to be allowed to leave the country. Those identified as close contacts of the affected person must isolate for seven days and then clear the prescribed tests.
More to follow…
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo
SL vs Ind 3rd T20I
Coach credits inexperienced players for “spirit” and “enthusiasm” throughout 45 days in bio-bubble
“This was a really young team. All of us have had our struggles playing quality bowling, whether it’s spin or pace,” Dravid said at the post-match press conference. “Early on in our careers, we’ve all had those struggles and we’ve all had to fight our way through that. None of us have been perfect when we started, whether it’s my generation or any generation for that matter. It needs experience.
“Maybe the one thing that’s slightly different is that when I was starting or was growing up, the pitches in domestic cricket tended to turn a little bit more and spun a bit more,” he added, when comparing the current generation’s challenges to his own. “To be honest, some of them were under-prepared. But I don’t think the talent is missing, either in spin bowling or in the batting. We just need a little bit more experience in being able to figure out a few more different kinds of shots when we’re challenged with these kind of pitches. We just need to figure out a couple of more options. It was tough batting for them (Sri Lanka) as well.”
“We’ve only seen the hotel and the ground, and even in the hotel it’s only certain parts of the hotel. We haven’t been able to go everywhere in the hotel as well.”
Dravid on India’s life in the bio-bubble in Sri Lanka
Playing with only five batters meant tactical changes in terms of how the team would construct an innings, and the pitches in the last two games offered a fair bit to the spinners too.
“I just think the balance of our team in the last couple of games meant we had a couple of batsmen short, which was always challenging. But the great positive for me was the way the guys have fought,” Dravid said. “Especially in the second game, I think we took it really close. [A] couple of balls here or there and we could have actually won that game.
“We’re kind of used to playing games where the scores are 160, 180, sometimes 200. But sometimes in challenging conditions, you’ve just got to learn how to scrap and fight your way to 130-140. I think that’s a great learning for our young players.”
Dhawan apart, the other four batters for India were Ruturaj Gaikwad, Devdutt Padikkal, Sanju Samson and Nitish Rana. Among them, only Samson had any prior international experience before the Sri Lanka tour; and precious little at that, with just seven T20Is.
“I’m not disappointed,” Dravid said of the batting performance. “They are young batters, they have to keep improving and getting better. The Sri Lankan team’s bowling attack is their international bowling attack. They’re missing a few batsmen because of various reasons, but this is a top quality attack. So it’s a great opportunity to reflect on these performances, reflect on these conditions, and maybe come up with some slightly better strategies.
“Let’s be fair, you don’t get these sort of conditions very often in T20 cricket, but when you do, I think you need to have a response. You need to be able to play slightly better. They’re all youngsters, we just need to have patience with them, give them more opportunities so that they can develop and grow.”
The last two T20Is were played on successive days, but the Indian squad had to spend a lot more time off the field than on it. From quarantining in Mumbai a fortnight before the tour to having to deal with rescheduling of matches when there was a Covid outbreak among the Sri Lankans, in a period that lasted a month and a half, there were only six days of cricket.
“I must admit it’s not been easy,” Dravid said of the bubble life the team had to endure. “It’s been almost 45 days for us and the thing was we only played six matches in those 45 days for a variety of reasons. We’ve only seen the hotel and the ground, and even in the hotel it’s only certain parts of the hotel. We haven’t been able to go everywhere in the hotel as well. It’s just a credit to all the boys, the way they maintained their spirit, maintained the enthusiasm, worked really hard. I can’t fault any of the boys for their effort.
“The way Shikhar and Bhuvi [Bhuvneshwar Kumar, vice-captain for the tour] and the leadership group [led], the environment that they created was terrific as well. Just as much as it was tough for us and not an easy situation to be in, we’re lucky to play cricket as well. In times like this over the last year and a half, we’ve seen a lot of people go through a lot of suffering, go through some very, very difficult times. In some ways, we feel blessed to be able to do what we can and what we do. I can’t really be more proud of the way the boys handled themselves over 45 days, having only six matches to play.”
Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
SL vs Ind, 3rd T20I
It is unclear yet if the two UK-bound players – Shaw and Suryakumar – will come back to India or fly directly to UK
“Yes, only Krunal will have to stay back in Sri Lanka for the time being due to the mandatory isolation period of one week,” a senior BCCI official told PTI on conditions of anonymity.
“After one week, if he has two negative RT-PCR reports, he will be allowed to fly back. Currently he is in the fourth day of his isolation. All others are free to depart as they have all tested negative.”
The ODI series was delayed by five days and then the second T20I, slated on Tuesday, had to be deferred by a day after Krunal tested positive, having shown symptoms on that day.
They were his younger brother Hardik, Shaw, Yadav, Manish Pandey, Deepak Chahar, Krishnappa Gowtham, Ishan Kishan and Yuzvendra Chahal.
However all the eight had tested negative.
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