Fan Following

First-person reports from the stands

Middlesex v Sri Lanka, Tour match, Uxbridge

Dilshan thrills amid the chills

The weather wasn't too hot, nor was the bowling, but the Sri Lankan batsmen gave the fans something to shout about

Adam Shoesmith

Comments: 7 | Text size: A | A
Tillakaratne Dilshan bowls, Middlesex v Sri Lankans, Tour match, Uxbridge, May 14, 2011
You should have seen him with the bat © Getty Images
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Choice of game
It was an easy decision to go to this one. Never before did I have such a short journey to make to a cricket match: a 20-minute bus journey to see a world-class international team for a mere £10. It makes the £70 that Lord's are charging for next month's Test look positively astronomical in comparison. After Strauss helped himself to a century on day one, I predicted a dominant Sri Lanka would rack up the runs.

Team supported
With no great loyalty to either side, I was looking for a good day's play. Early on, Dilshan had a half-hearted appeal against him and at that point I was certainly hoping he would stay in so I could see more of him in action. However, by the time tea ticked around I was desperate to see Middlesex take a wicket that didn't involve the word "retired".

Key performer
How could it be anyone other than Dilshan? He was still probably jet-lagged, and a swirling, biting wind across the pitch could have made life difficult for Sri Lanka's new captain, but he thrived on a flat track against a listless, impotent Middlesex attack to kickstart his campaign on English soil with a century. His acceleration in the morning to take himself to 69 by lunch, while Paranavithana was down the other end on half that score, was the most impressive aspect of the performance.

One thing you'd have changed about the day
The weather. It was a day of thick woolly jumpers all round. A cold wind, with heavy cloud and spitting rain, was only partially interrupted by the briefest rays of sunshine. Not much problem if you are playing, but very chilly for stationary spectators. Jumpers in the merchandise tent sold out before lunch.

The interplay you enjoyed
Unfortunately this game was not much of a contest. Middlesex were just unable to apply any consistent pressure. This was to be expected as they played many of their 2nd XI bowlers, but it meant the most gentle and sedate of introductions to English conditions that the tourists could have hoped for, and little for the crowd to get stuck into.

Wow moment
A period in the morning session where Dilshan clearly thought he was still batting for Royal Challengers Bangalore, taking 14 runs from Tom Smith's first over of the day.

Shot of the day
From that expensive over, the big shot of the day was a smashed six straight by Dilshan, over the bowler's head, over the sightscreen, out of the ground, and into a nearby residential front garden. It took a few minutes to fetch that one back.

Player watch
I sat by the players' balcony, and there was a steady buzz throughout the day as an army of Sri Lankan fans had taken advantage of the small, intimate ground, plus the relaxed nature of their heroes, to get as many autographs and photos as possible. The Middlesex players did not have much to cheer; the most animated that young bowler Gurjit Sandhu, fielding near me, got was when motioning to the balcony for liquid refreshment. He must have been tired from having to fetch the ball from the boundary so often.

Crowd meter
The large turnout of Sri Lankan fans helped boost not only numbers, but to create a bit of a buzz around the ground. I am sad to report that yet again the anti-fun police sprung immediately into action when a Sri Lankan fan dared to wave his small flag around in support. I simply do not understand why flags are banned from matches at some grounds in this country. This was a warm-up match, played in front of just a few hundred people, it wasn't televised... was he really doing any "harm" with his flag? It was a highlight, though, when after remonstrations with stewards, the flag owner offered the witty riposte: "So, will you also be confiscating that Sri Lankan flag flying above the pavilion too, then?"

Good selection of food on offer from the Indian stall, including those favourite staples - bhajjis and samosas. Braver folk than I sank cold beers and ice-cream on what was an unseasonally cold day in Uxbridge. I think cups of tea were the day's number one seller.

County v Twenty20
Following the World Cup and a recent diet of two matches daily of sugary IPL, this certainly looked like a return to the more patient long form of the game. Overcast conditions, the red Duke ball, and a 90% male crowd with scoring books in hand certainly gave this illusion off the pitch. On it, however, clearly no one had told the Sri Lankans, who cantered along at over five runs an over. Their innings would not have looked out of place in a 50-over game.

Seven on 10. A great, inexpensive day out for a cricket fan of any denomination, seeing two world-class players make fine centuries, even though there was nothing by way of competition or contest between the two sides. You were out of luck if you were hoping to see any wickets.

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Adam Shoesmith, 26, is a cricket follower from London who has migrated his county support as he has moved across the capital, from Essex to Surrey to Middlesex. Adam showed early promise in the park with a tennis ball under the watchful eye of his father, but as soon as things started getting serious with a rock-hard ball and numerous pads, he made a run for the safety of the stands, and has happily remained there since.

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Comments: 7 
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Posted by Sabrina on (May 17, 2011, 14:47 GMT)

Very cool. At least there is some real cricket going on somewhere in the world.

Posted by Dimuthu on (May 16, 2011, 18:37 GMT)

i was there for the 2nd day's afternoon/evening sessions. great batting by the lankans to watch. and i saw the flag waver being told off... the stewards cant be blamed, as it is their job to kill joy, but they were taking too much pleasure with it.. reminds me of parking ticket stewards and the power trip they go on!

Posted by Dummy4 on (May 16, 2011, 13:28 GMT)

If this is the case Flag Waving Percy cannot wave? Can the authorities concerned give us the reason for this Ban? Although you thought us Cricket,stop our guys from waving flags.Dilshan & company will show you how to wave the Bat for sure.

Posted by Big on (May 16, 2011, 12:38 GMT)

That's English style in "style". India was similar few years ago where no could carry a flag, not anymore. England on the other hand wants to stick to its rigid, stupid rules that makes watching a test cricket game more like watching a business meeting or a tennis game. People only clap when someone gets out, hits a four/six or gets to a milestone. No loud cheering, flag waving, etc. Pretty soon they will have to pay people to come and watch their test cricket at Lords.

Posted by Philip on (May 16, 2011, 11:58 GMT)

The party poopers. It is high time the English cricketing authorities take a look at "Party Pooping". No the Colonial rulers. Times have changed and they need to accept that English cricket can do with some positive improvement via crowd entertainment. Multiculturalism may not always be a good thing, but entertainment for sure cannot be a bad thing. No being able to wave a flag.. Come on Come on.. give the fans a break. The English fans go all over the world waving their fans and why not. What is good for the goose is good for the gander surely? Philip Gnana, Surrey

Posted by dilan on (May 16, 2011, 11:57 GMT)

Great work man keep it up

Posted by Dummy4 on (May 16, 2011, 10:11 GMT)

I too do not understand the English desire to suck out any fun from test cricket. We Sri Lankans are bought up on flag waving and cheers even in 2/3 day school matches. In my only visit to Lords we weere told to put away a flag we were using as a sun sheild by a stweard from South Africa, and the aggresive and arrogant way they go about it made decide i was never going to watch a match at lords again.

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