A few nights ago I woke up from a gorgeous dream. I was at Lord’s on a warm summer day, either in the new Warner Stand or right on the edge of the Grand Stand (interesting, as I have never watched from there before) and Zak Crawley was hitting boundary after boundary. Sweeps, I guess, as they were coming in my direction but this being a dream I never saw the actual shots themselves. I am interpreting this as a deep psychological reaction to missing cricket at the moment rather than just the fact that I was consistently distracted by my champagne.
England’s arrival in Sri Lanka, though, was much more nightmarish. Landing in the empty Colombo airport, they faced a line of haz-mat figures for their first covid tests and now face single-room isolation until their second tests three days later. If all goes well, they can emerge into a training bubble.
I’m half excited for the return of England Test cricket and half too-tired already: more talk of bubbles, more empty stadia, more eerie silence greeting wickets and centuries.
So before it begins on 14th January I am going to run through my dream first Test of the series.
On a hot but not sweltering day in Galle (now you know it’s a dream, not a reality) Joe Root and Dimuth Karunaratne amble out to the middle for the toss. Root wins and bats first; he doesn’t want to be batting last against spin here. Half an hour later, Sibley and Crawley trot out to bat. At lunch, we are 96-1, Sibley caught behind for 26. Crawley has emerged into some more flamboyant stroke play while Root, back up the order at 3 is grinding it out. Remember, there’s neither Burns nor Pope to shore up England’s batting, and with Stokes also absent from the tour England have to be careful not to throw things away.
The afternoon session is marked by growing England confidence, though Sri Lanka pick up a couple of late wickets, giving them a sniff in the evening session. England 205-3 now. Johnny Bairstow – no – Ben Foakes – no – Jos Buttler……? This isn’t that thing where people’s faces keep changing in a dream; this is that thing where England can’t decide which wicket-keeper to go with. Looks like Foakes or Bairstow will be playing as a batsman alongside Buttler keeping the gloves for good measure.
England survive the day but are wrapped up by Sri Lanka for 390 an hour into day two. Karunaratne and Perera are back in the shed within ten minutes (not such a dream, given their struggles in South Africa in the current series). As Nortje rolled through the Sri Lankan batsmen, so Anderson and Broad tear through them this time. All out for 210 by the end of the day.
Between innings, Stuart Broad’s new fiancée Mollie King of Radio 1 and The Saturdays texts me to ask if I’m watching. We have a long conversation and become best friends. These kinds of things happen in my dreams. They’re almost more entertaining than this Test match.
Starting with a lead of 180, Sibley makes a dogged century safe in the knowledge that time is on his side. Crawley has another good innings, this time out in the 80s before Root comes in with a steady half century himself. Talk of a declaration hums on in the background of all TV and radio commentary, and my ongoing Whatsapp with Mollie. Will he, won’t he, she asks me?
No! Root decides to bat on, happy that he still has two and a half days to bowl Sri Lanka out for below their target of 400+. Sir Alastair Cook muses that this is quite aggressive captaincy, really, which surprises him.
Dom Bess scoops up a few, apparently, although I don’t actually see them because dreams always get fuzzier towards the end, don’t they? Who really knows what’s happening? If it wasn’t for the TV deals, this cricket certainly wouldn’t be.
In the moment of victory, at which point I have been dream-sported into the biosecure bubble to offer my input and am a millisecond away from becoming the most important person in the England setup, I wake.
To sleep, perchance to dream.