Don't believe the invisible leprechauns
Cricketers may not fiddle their expenses, wreck the economy, declare illegal wars, issue fatwas or desperately seek to ingratiate themselves with the general public, but in some ways they are just like politicians. Firstly, when they retire they can't wait to inflict their tedious memoirs on us. And secondly, just like our elected representatives, they sometimes have to adopt a flexible attitude towards reality.
Shortly after Sunday's carnival of calamity had concluded, Nasser Hussain asked whether England might possibly have a teensy bit of a problem with spin bowling. Stuart Broad, wearing a straight face, replied in the negative. He may or may not have had his fingers crossed behind his back at the time. And the member for Nottingham was still wearing the rosy spectacles at the post-match excuse-fest:
"We still hop on a bus to Kandy in the morning. It is not like tomorrow is going to be a different day. It's not as if we have to go home or anything."
It's true. ICC lawyers have been scrutinising the fine print of the World Twenty20 playing regulations, but sadly it seems that there is no ineptitude clause. Unless they do something really silly, like setting fire to Dave Richardson's beach hut, or staging a savagely satirical play about one of the world's major religions, England will be in Sri Lanka for three more batting collapses.
Still, those encores will have to be something special to top the weekend's ripe entertainment. It was Alex Hales who set the tone, playing a lovely little check-slog-waft-miss with which he appeared to have vague, unrealistic ambitions of doing something in the direction of midwicket. As the wood clattered behind him, he held the pose. There you go, he seemed to be saying, that's how you get bowled.
Perhaps it's unfair, but I've always regarded Luke Wright as a bit of an impostor, and when I saw him trot out at first wicket down, he reminded me of that certain type of actor: rubbish in almost every film he's ever been in, but keeps getting work. Well, on Sunday, the Hugh Grant of international cricket was playing the role of Kevin Pietersen, and Nasser, impartial as ever, wanted to give him a big build-up.
"Here he comes," boomed Nass, "The man who was brilliant against Afghanistan."
Not that being brilliant against Afghanistan is a bad thing, but it isn't as good, say, as being relatively competent against New Zealand. Four balls later, the man who was brilliant against Afghanistan assayed a swipe so ugly that the statue of Don Bradman outside Adelaide Oval was seen to weep. I gather that "Lukewright Style", a video clip of a man dressed in garish clothing hopping about haplessly, has since gone viral.
England's best Irish-born player of spin was up next but like many of his colleagues was intent on applying the horizontal rather than the vertical. He put his left foot in, took his left foot out, and then swung furiously at a straight one with the desperate air of a man trying to dissuade a wasp from landing on his lap. There then followed a hoick from Bairstow, a swipe from Kieswetter, and a cheeky little nine iron from Bresnan.
Jos Buttler is young and still has much to learn. He believed what the invisible leprechaun whispered in his ear about the wickets having been taken down into the fairy kingdom for safekeeping and that it didn't matter if he just stepped back and had a swing. The particular lesson Buttler should take from this game is never to listen to invisible leprechauns when you're 54 for 6 in an international T20 game, because invisible leprechauns are terrible liars.
And then it was Swann's turn.
"He will swing his bat, he won't hang around," said Harsha, who, as ever, was entirely correct. Swann offered a shuffling little gentleman's excuse-me, an apologetic wave of the willow, and, as predicted, didn't hang around. Ten wickets in 89 balls, an hour-long exhibition of high comedy, and as a bonus, the relaunching of Bhajji's career, although he rather ungraciously chose to thank God, who as far as I can tell had very little to do with it.
Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England