You get used to strange tooting noises when you're out and about in Colombo. The city is a constant cacophony of klaxons and horns, and if enough of them sound in sequence, it can sometimes seem musical.

It's a little bit more confusing, however, when designated musicians end up sounding like a fleet of frustrated tuk-tuk drivers. For the last two days of England's warm-up, a strangulated brassy din has been wafting across the breeze from the car-park of the SSC, where the Sri Lankan military band have been practising their scales ahead of their gala performance during the second Test.

As their tuba player explained between puffs, the band are being lined up to provide lunchtime entertainment - though on which days he wasn't yet sure - and when all their efforts come together they intend to delight the punters with a medley of old favourites, such as the Sri Lankan national anthem, and Land of Hope and Glory.

Fortunately there's still a fortnight to go before the grand opening night. Goodness knows they need it. Maybe their performance will benefit from being on the big stage, but for the time being, they've chosen to congregate behind the NCC's whitewashed brick sightscreen, which must be rather like trying to produce your best innings on a scratchy coconut-matting net.

They've been out of sight, but most certainly not out of mind. "Are we disturbing you?" asked the band members yesterday morning, as the Sky Sports team lined up their shots of the day's play. "Not at all," came the ever-polite reply. Forty-eight hours of involuntary trumpet later, and several peculiarly soundtracked snippets, they are possibly ruing their stoicism.


As the guidebooks delight in telling you, Sri Lanka is awash with shrines, temples and pagodas. They tower above their surroundings, demanding attention from devotees and passers-by alike, and many of them are not merely beautiful, they remain functional as well.

In fact, they sound rather like the magnificent manual scoreboards that can be found all around the cricket grounds of Cinnamon Gardens. From Aravinda de Silva's nearby school ground to the SSC, these structures dominate their corners of the field, their vivid white-on-black numbering visible even to the blindest old stalwarts in the member's pavilion.

If only all grounds could impart their information in such an attractive and user-friendly manner. The modern trend, especially in England and Australia, is to use electricity all the way. This causes all manner of problems, from power failures to advertising interruptions, to the simple impossibility of working out which number refers to which part of the game.

There's no mistaking what's going on on these boards, however. The home team and individual scores are listed down on side, the visitors down the other; the total score and the not-out batsmen in bold at the top, and the bowling figures and sundry information nestled at the bottom. The boards can be prone to the odd glitch of course - at CCC earlier this week, England were known as "Fleet Street" for most of the first day - but the NCC tally has remained magnificently accurate all match.

It's quite an operation going on behind the facades of these beasts. The official scorers sit down at pitch level, ready to answer queries if required but generally detached from the bedlam above them. A series of cast-iron ladders carry you onwards and upwards to three concrete platforms, each strewn with innumerable metal numbers, and each manned by an incredibly focused tallyman.

Matthew, Irshad and Ruwan are their names, and each has a specific task to carry out. Irshad is the busiest, for he is in control of the giant wheels that tot up each run as it happens. His eyes never stray from the action, and he's plugged into an ipod, presumably to cut off outside interference.

Matthew patrols the middle level. His job is to update the bowling figures every over - less labour intensive, perhaps, but presumably requiring better mental arithmetic. Ruwan is the sweeper. He kicks back in a plastic chair for most of the day, and is only called upon to update the overs bowled, extras and fall of wickets.

Nevertheless, like the cogs in a clock, they all play a significant and co-ordinated part, and the game we've all been watching is all the richer for their efforts.

Andrew Miller is the former UK editor of ESPNcricinfo and now editor of The Cricketer magazine