Morning everyone. If you thought yesterday was exciting you're not going to believe what we've got coming up on the OBO today. The word from the Met Office is that we're going to get five hours or so of drop-by-drop coverage of a steady rain shower.
The start is definitely going to be delayed, so if you actually want to read about some cricket I suggest you go over to the blog. Seems that south of the North the only place it is raining right now is in Cardiff.
What else can I offer you by way of a diversion? Mike Selvey has penned a few musings about Ajantha Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan, .
"Dylan was right on weathermen," reckons Keith Flett. "Here in central Cardiff the cat wont get out of bed and when I ventured out to get my copy of the Observer the beard got distinctly damp. Was pondering walking over to the SWALEC but I think there may be better ways to spend thirty quid while watching drizzle fall."
This is becoming too tedious. I've even resorted to reading Andrew Strauss' new book. Soon abandoned that plan. Instead I've decided to compile an All Time Welsh XI. Because I'm sad like that. If you're reading this, feel free to join in. But truth be told I'm going to be here playing this game by myself anyway, so I really don't mind one way or another.
Opening the batting? , who managed to score 36,049 runs - more than Mark Ramprakash has managed - and never win a single official England cap. He played in the England v Rest of the World series in 1970, but that doesn't count in the records. His opening partner will be, I guess, currently head honcho at the ECB, but also a man who hit 10 centuries and 2,276 runs in one season back in 1990. I thought about Steve James, but as he was born in Gloucestershire I don't think he's eligible.
The middle order looks a little trickier. . And Scott W has provided us with our wicketkeeper: ". Played there for Glamorgan for three decades, taking a record 933 dismissals; also holds the record for the highest-ever score by a Glamorgan keeper (146* against Sussex). Which puts the achievements of Geraint Jones MBE into perspective, at least."
Between Lewis and Jones (E) we're going to need some more batting. So at No4 it's . David Foot called him "", which is all the evidence you should need.
News from Cardiff, by the way, is that the rain has stopped and that play will start at 1.30pm.
"You think you've got it bad?" scoffs Alistair M. "I have somehow found myself at the Caravan Club National Rally. And I don't even own a caravan. "Entertainment" includes Jimmy whose jokes have aged nearly as bad as he has, as well as a Caravan Reversing competition, with the least inspiring commentator ever to er... commentate. Even my wife agreed that watching cricket is like a day at Alton Towers compared to this lot." Oh mercy me. I hope you packed the service revolver and a spare bullet.
"Matthew Maynard at No4?" suggests Mo Holkar. "25,000 or so first-class runs, averaging 42. Hopeless during his brief Test career, but maybe would have done better batting for the leek rather than the rose." I'd like to, I really would, but he was born in Oldham.
If you think we've got it bad over here, head over to the where an atrociously hungover John Ashdown is trying to do live coverage of a board meeting that doesn't even take placer for another four-and-a-half hours. Ye Gods.
"Eiffion was one of the best keepers I have seen," says Mike Selvey, "no question."
Ashdown has just gone for a long walk towards the toilets, shoulders slouched, head bowed, muttering to himself. Poor sod.
So at the moment we've got four batsmen and a 'keeper. Time to fill in a few gimmes: "May I also suggest a father/son combination to open the bowling," says Scott W. "The left-arm fast bowling of Jeff Jones from one end and the right-arm fast-medium of his son Simon from the other."
And the rest of the attack picks itself: Robert Croft. Of course. And , unquestionably the best bowler never to win a cap for England. Just look at his record. It's preposterously good: 2,218 first-class wickets at an average of 21.32 each.
Back in Cardiff the covers are out again. It's lashing down. That 1.30pm start? Forgettaboutit.
The all-rounder is going to be , "one of nature's gentlemen", according to EW Swanton, and yet another Glamorgan contender for an XI of the best players who never got picked for England, according to John Arlott. He scored 26,564 runs with 32 centuries, and took 903 wickets at 29 each with his slow-left-arm spin.
"If the only qualification is 'born in Wales' "then I nominate Pat Pocock (1607 first class wickets at 26.53) ahead of Robert Croft (1140 at 35.37)," says Mac Millings. But how can we have an All Time Welsh XI without Croft?
Right, we're on man short. But I'm desperate to pop off for lunch. So we'll rope in Tony Cottey on the grounds . "Surely there must be a place for Steve Watkin in the attack" grumbles James Kirk. "I'd probably have him in ahead of Jeff Jones, even if that does break up the father-son combo."
The OBO's All Time Welsh XI: Alan Jones, Hugh Morris, Tony Lewis, Gilbert Parkhouse, Tony Cottey, Emrys Davies, Robert Croft, Eifion Jones (WK), Don Shepherd, Simon Jones, Jeff Jones.
Well, it killed an hour didn't it?
Day three in the basement of Guardian Towers. Bull stares at the rain drops falling on his computer screen. He mutters darkly to himself. "There's no place like home. There's no place like home." Across the desk John Ashdown weeps quietly.
Here's Sam Marsh: "Assuming you've got some time to kill," [that's a joke, right?] "any chance you could see if the ever-helpful OBOers
"With respect to Tony Cottey, you need Wilf Wooller in there as skipper" says Chris Young. "Cottey can be drinks monitor." Aye. Good shout.
"Caravan reversing sounds terrific," reckons Selves. "Almost up there with Dogs and their Utes, a competition I saw in Perth. You do of course have to know that a Ute is a flat-bed truck." Dogs and their Utes? What were they doing? Driving them or just posing in the back? I once watched the Under-21s straight line ploughing competition at Frome Cheese Show. That was also good.
"Looking out over Sophia Gardens' mizzle and into the distance, I'm reminded of that old cricket cliche - "How did this country invent cricket"?" writes Gary Naylor. "Except this country didn't - that country over there, where they're playing at six grounds,
Turns out there is no need to take the mickey out of Athers ever again.
"I've trod on the effin penguin!"
"Thanks for the truly terrifying Spider Kills Bee film," says Nick Lezard. "It means I will now not be able to have my afternoon nap in case it gives me nightmares." You think that's scary? Have you watched that Noel Edmonds film yet? "On another note, I just upgraded, against my better judgement, to one of those smartphones that tell you what the weather is like anywhere in the world. It keeps telling me that in Cardiff it is "mostly cloudy" but this seems to me not quite the whole story. Should I demand a replacement?"
The covers are off. Don't hold your breath.
There are whispers that play may start at 2.30pm. I don't believe a word of it.
Ashdown and I have been indulging in a repeat viewing of that Athers clip. The best bit may just be the very end, when Edmonds takes off his mask and shouts "Gotcha!" Athers' reply? "Oh, you twat." Or at least that what we reckon he says. They've turned the mic down, which may be all the confirmation we need anyway.
Play will start at 2.30pm.
"I can't say that I stopped to watch Dogs and their Utes," says Mike Selvey. "But I did once report on a 24 hour ultra marathon for the Guardian. This involved competitors running round and round the indoor precinct of Milton Keynes shopping centre, each circuit roughly one mile. This being a little samey, I watched the first hour and the last. It was the sprint at the end when they were given a five minute warning that cracked me. The winner ran 169 miles, which is London to Exeter. This meant 169 times past each shop window. I evoked Rudyard Kipling: Boots, Boots, Boots, Boots..."
I love the idea of covering an ultra marathon in a shopping centre in Milton Keynes. That's quite the most ludicrous sport I've ever heard of anyone covering for this paper, and I say that as a man who once covered a .
The wonders of the internet. February 18, 1989, 'cub' Guardian reporter Mike Selvey, who apparently knows a thing or two about cricket, gets sent to Milton Keynes to cover the indoor ultra marathon:
Mile upon mall on the longest shopping spree
Mike Selvey sees the enduring pain of the ultra runners
IT IS 11 o'clock on a Sunday morning. Milton Keynes shopping centre would normally be sepulchral as it recovers from the brat-squalling shopping babble of the previous day. But not yesterday. Instead, figures, some jogging metronomically, others hunched and shuffling, gaunt and as staring as the undead, pitter-pat of their stealthy, echoing way up and down the malls of shops.
They had been doing so throughout the night for 15 hours non-stop, and there were another nine still to go. These are the ultra runners: an elite to whom a marathon is no more than a chocolate bar. Even to those who have experienced the pain of running a marathon, the concept of the ultra is stupefying.
Yesterday saw the finish of the third Milton Keynes 24-hour race, an indoor event of finite time and limitless distance run around a circuit of almost 1,000 yards. When the 24 hours was up, the 41-year-old New Zealander Dick Tout had broken every record in the indoor book, having hauled his body 163 miles and 286 yards, roughly the distance between London and Doncaster. On the way he had set new world indoor bests for 30 miles, 50 kilometres, 40 miles and 250 kilometres.
It represents something in the order of 300 circuits of the shopping centre: 300 times past the same shop windows. Kipling must have been an ultra runner — Boots, Boots, Boots, Boots...
Yet 24 hours, in ultra terms, is only just working up a sweat. Forty-eight hours is attempted regularly, and so is 1,000km, Sydney to Melbourne, and 1,000 miles, all of which prove no problem to the king of the ultra runners, the Greek Yiannis Kouros, who is unbeaten at these, extremes.
Kouros was to have been the top seed of the 45 competitors in the MK race (numbers are limited because the logistics of lap counting for 24 hours are themselves a considerable feat of endurance). However, a race in South Africa has led to the AAA barring him from the event. He was still running though, unofficially and just for the exercise — blue-vested, stripey long-johns, and a Walkman clamped on-his head.
The competitors have mixed feelings about the Milton Keynes event. On the one hand it provides them with the longest indoor circuit of all — they have been known to use circuits as small as 200 yards which quite literally can send competitors dizzy, not to mention out of their skulls with boredom. It is also sheltered and, in February, relatively warm during the day at least. Against that is the unforgiving marble: surface which can play havoc, with feet and joints.
Eleanor Adams, the greatest woman ultra runner of them all, has been leading: woman in both previous MK 24 hours, the last time with: 141 miles in 1987. Yesterday she shuffled a mile and a half more, to yet another world best.
There are, it seems, gluttons for punishment , and then there are ultra runners.
91st over: England 292-2 (Cook 132, Trott 127) "It's been very windy out there but my'roof's back on" begins Bumble, and then instantly corpses, unable to stifle his giggles at his own joke. A good start to the afternoon that. Think everyone has gone stir crazy. We've 63 overs to play today, though if we're honest this match is going nowhere fast, what with England being a bowler down. Cook knocks three runs away to mid-wicket, as though he's never been away. Only on the OBO. Sam Marsh, Richard Comont has an answer for you: "Sam Marsh's 'terrifying' spider – it's one of the house spiders, Tegenaria sp. – they can't be identified to species without close examination of the mouthparts. One species is called Tegenaria gigantea, which speaks for itself, but they are actually harmless to humans. The bee is interesting – it's Bombus hypnorum, the Tree Bumblebee, and this is only the 10th year it's been in Britain." Well done that man. The intelligence of the OBO hive mind never fails to amaze.
92nd over: England 292-2 (Cook 132, Trott 127) Herath starts at the other end, a move which is slammed by Bumble and Knight on the grounds that the ball is only 11 overs old. Herath often bowls with the new ball though, he says he likes it because it means he can swing his arm-ball, which is how he gets a lot of his wickets, either bowled or LBW. It's a maiden, anyway.
93rd over: England 294-2 (Cook 133, Trott 128) "Sun out in central Cardiff," says Keith Flett. "Knew it was time for play to start because cat got out of bed and wandered into garden to eat some catnip." A pair of singles are all England take from this over.
94th over: England 295-2 (Cook 133, Trott 129) Herath rips a delivery out of the rough outside leg stump, but Trott just knocks it away square. An uneventful over.
95th over: England 298-2 (Cook 133, Trott 132) A fella in a yellow skintight body suit takes a turn around the ground. Much hilarity ensues. Exit left pursued by a steward. "Ah, the sounds and sights of summer," sighs Lou Roper. "Rain interrupting the cricket (in Wales only today, as Mr Naylor aptly observed), unknown spiders appearing in the garden, the wisdom of the OBO providing ready answers, and Andy Bull sitting in Guardian Towers having to cope with all of it in between the drops." And the monotonous pick pack pock of Cook and Trott batting their way through the afternoon.
96th over: England 298-2 (Cook 133, Trott 132) Trott flatbats an over from Herath, and leaves alone a delivery that rips out of the rough. It's another maiden for Herath.
WICKET! Cook 133 c Jayawardene b Maharoof (97th over: England 298-3) Well I'll be... Cook swings a cut shot at a ball that bounced a little more than he had bargained for and top-edges a catch through to the 'keeper. Here comes Kevin then. Bound, you can't help but feel, for a flash 35. He's back behind his first three balls, playing out a wicket-maiden.
98th over: England 299-3 (Trott 132, Pietersen 0) Trott flicks a single away fine, leaving Pietersen to pat a delivery away to mid-on.
99th over: England 302-3 (Trott 134, Pietersen 2) I wonder when - and indeed if - someone is going to figure out how to bowl to Trott? Right now Sri Lanka have resorted to hanging the ball outside his off stump, packing the off field and waiting for him to play a loose shot. They may as well try and goad Nelson into coming down off his column. It'll be fascinating to see what Duncan Fletcher can come up with for Trott later this summer when India are over. He's a great schemer, Duncan. A lot of players talk about how good an eye he has for analysing batting techniques as a coach, the flip side of that, of course, is that he also spends a lot of time thinking about how best to bowl to a player to exploit his weaknesses. Have a look at KP gets his first runs with a flick through square leg.
100th over: England 305-3 (Trott 136, Pietersen 3) The OBO hive mind is really starting to throb now. Matthew Cobb is a Professor of Zoology, and this is what he makes of Sam Marsh's spider video: "It's just a giant house spider I reckon - Tegenaria duellica; formerly known (understandably) as T. gigantea. Still pretty tough to take on the bumble bee. Cool how it bites it on the back of the 'neck' so the bee can't sting it. The cat doesn't want to fool with it, but I suspect that's more because of the bee - the cat would have no problem whacking and snarfing the spider on its own."
101st over: England 305-3 (Trott 136, Pietersen 3) A maiden over, Maharoof and Trott playing each other to a standstill.
REFERRAL! Pietersen 3 lbw Herath That's a brute of a ball to get. It hardly got up above ankle height after pitching, and Pietersen couldn't drop his bat in time to stop it hitting his pad. Umpire Doctrove says 'not out', but Dilshan refers it. It's very tough to tell whether the ball hit bat or pad first. Has KP got out to a slow-left-armer again? Iron Bottom and Holding think so, but the replays just aren't quite conclusive. Hotspot suggests that the ball hit pad just before bat, but we've been waiting an awful long time for a decision.
WICKET! Pietersen 3 lbw Herath (England 307-4) Well that is seriously unlucky. The scorecard will show that KP got out to a slow-left-armer, but it was a horrible delivery, shooting along the floor towards the bottom of middle stump. Just before the start of that over Gary Naylor sent me this: "For a man with a reputation for selfishness, KP's big knocks have usually been for the team. He probably needs a biggish knock now, but not for the team - for himself. His automatic place is beginning to slide away - especially if Morgan cements his place and Ben Stokes backs up his impressive runs with very handy bowling." I'm really not sure I would go that far. They want KP in the team, and Stokes is a very long way from winning Test selection yet. But that certainly isn't a great start to the summer for Pietersen, particularly as he had been kept waiting so long for his innings.
103rd over: England 308-4 (Trott 137, Bell 2) KP fell to the arm ball I was talking about a few overs back, I think. "I've said before, that if the UDRS is designed to eliminate "howlers" then why are they using HotSpot?" grumbles Dan Lucas. "The umpires don't have Predator-esque thermal vision, so if a nick can't be picked up by a slow-motion replay then how can it be a "howler" by the umpire using his naked eye, once? Stupid bloody system."
104th over: England 315-4 (Trott 138, Bell 8) It looks pretty grim in Cardiff, I have to say. The light is tinted grey and the wind is whipping the players' shirts. Hell. That's a shot. Ian Bell is giving the fans something to smile about. He slaps six runs back over the bowler's head. "That's the other way to play left-arm-spin," says Nasser. "Run at it and smack it for six." That was an incredible shot to play so early in his innings. I'm not sure they've got the ball back yet. Now they have. It's come back with chunks torn out of it. That can happen if you head in to the wrong part of Cardiff.
105th over: England 319-4 (Trott 142, Bell 8) An underwhelming sort of lbw appeal from Sri Lanka, for a delivery that hit bat-and-pad outside the line. Trott punches the next delivery for four down the ground, just in case anyone got the idea he was vulnerable. "Can we please please PLEASE please stop talking about giant house spiders?" pleads Phil Sawyer. "As a fully paid up arachnophobe I'm now standing quivering on top of a dining room chair like the housemaid from Tom and Jerry just at the thought of one hoving into view."
106th over: England 320-4 (Trott 142, Bell 9) Bell eases a sweep away for a single around the corner. At the risk of coming across like one of the less intelligent members of an Indian cricket crowd I'm now tempted to shout "we want sixers" at Bell. That was the most exciting shot I've seen in the last two days. It'd be lovely if he could play a few more, just to inject some life into this meandering innings.
107th over: England 322-4 (Trott 142, Bell 11) Cook and Trott are wonderful batsmen after all, but boy are they hard work to watch bat together. They're like a double act with two straight men and no one crack the gags. Hale and Pace in other words. "Phil Sawyer shouldn't feel too worried about his fear of spiders because, after all, a few of them are genuinely dangerous to people. I have a completely irrational fear of moths and not because I'm a snappy dresser." Quite right John Starbuck. That's explains how over their lifetime the average person can get away with accidentally eating eight spiders while they are asleep without suffering any illness or other repercussions. I'm sure Phil will be very reassured by that fact.
108th over: England 322-4 (Trott 142, Bell 11) Trott plays out a maiden, and Sky's cameras pick out a selection of spectators who have fallen asleep.
109th over: England 326-4 (Trott 142, Bell 15) Bell slices an inside edge past his stumps and away for four.
110th over: England 326-4 (Trott 146, Bell 15) News is breaking that Sri Lankan opener Upul Tharange failed a drugs test during the World Cup. Tharanga scored a century against England in their ten-wicket defeat in the quarter-finals. No more news yet.
111th over: England 335-4 (Trott 146, Bell 20) A wonderful drive for four by Ian Bell, the ball shooting off the very middle of the bat and skimming across the turf, eluding the fingertips of the diving fielder by a matter of inches. Maharoof laughs it off. He's not smiling after the next ball though, which Bell cut straight to Kumar Sangakkara, who dropped it. It was a tough chance though.
112th over: England 338-4 (Trott 147, Bell 22) "'That explains how over their lifetime the average person can get away with accidentally eating eight spiders while they are asleep without suffering any illness or other repercussions. Where has this nonsense come from? My 12 year-old daughter told me this the other day. Balderdash man, balderdash!" That's true, Matthew Cobb. But it is commonly accepted balderdash. If you really want to know where it is from, I'll tell you, though it rather spoils the fun: "This "statistic" was not only made up, it was invented as an example of the absurd things people will believe simply because they come across them on the Internet. In a 1993 PC Professional article, columnist Lisa Holst wrote about the ubiquitous lists of 'facts' that were circulating via e-mail and how readily they were accepted as truthful by gullible recipients. To demonstrate her point, Holst offered her own made-up list of equally ridiculous 'facts,' among which was the statistic cited above about the average person's swallowing eight spiders per year, which she took from a collection of common misbeliefs printed in a 1954 book on insect folklore. In a delicious irony, Holst's propagation of this false "fact" has spurred it into becoming one of the most widely-circulated bits of misinformation to be found on the Internet." You can read all about it .
113th over: England 344-4 (Trott 147, Bell 28) This is going to be the last over of the session, which means Herath and Maharoof have bowled through it unchanged.
Remember that "fella in a yellow skintight bodysuit" I mentioned back in the 95th over? Seems he and his friends are OBO readers. "Marigold man would like everyone to know it's all natural...no folding...no bunching," Dan Goldschmied tells us. "Marigold Man will now be taking suggestions from OBO readers about what he should do next."
I'll go first, how about a face first dive from the fifth storey?
114th over: England 346-4 (Trott 147, Bell 29) The umpires wonder out late, the batsmen later still, and the fielders dawdle out some three minutes after that. This game is drifting to a finish, and it is beginning to feel like no one can quite be bothered about hurrying it along. Herath starts after tea, ripping one past his outside edge. "Surely we need to find some way of getting Marigold Man to give Atherton a hug to say thank you for the OBO reference yesterday?" says Phil Sawyer. Honestly, I think Beefy would be more appreciative of a little man love from Marigold Man.
115th over: England 352-4 (Trott 147, Bell 35) Thisara Perera will start at the other end. Bell cuts his first ball past backward point and away for two runs, a shot he repeats for four later in the over. In between the two he edged a delivery just short of second slip after being flummoxed by a little extra bounce. bell played it well, prompting a bout of lyrical waxing about "soft hands" from Nick Knight. "I'm about half way through Rob Smyth's very enjoyable book, The Spirit of Cricket," says Mac Millings. "Favourite line so far? "Robert Key, England 2002-"
116th over: England 356-4 (Trott 152, Bell 35) Trott raises his 150. "He goes on and on and on and on," says Knight. "He may have just raised his 150 but that's now out of his mind and he is thinking about his 200." The terrifying thing is that's probably true.
117th over: England 356-4 (Trott 152, Bell 35) Lovely stuff from Holding. "Come on Mikey," says Knight, "how would you go about getting him out." "Go after his head," says Holding. "That wouldn't be out of the picture at all." At the same time he admits he can't see anyone major weakness in his game. "Push him back then look for the outside edge." Perera pings Bell on the bottom hand with a ripsnorter that shot up at the bat handle. Bell winces in pain and whips off the glove to shake his fingers. Perera follows up with a horrible ball that both bounces and jags back. Bell almost plays it on. Plenty of evidence here that the pitch is not as flat as all that.
118th over: England 360-4 (Trott 153, Bell 38) "Is it possible to find out if theres every been a 20 game phenomenon like Trott?" asks James Austin. "Has any other player, after their first 20 (well, 19) matches averaged as highly in the modern game or, indeed, ever. With an average beginning to move towards 70 surely its about time he gets mentioned as not only one of the best players in this England side but also in the world?" Actually this is a lot more common than you'd think. If he is still averaging that much when he's played 50 Tests he really will be in rare company - as well as being, as you say, one of the best batsmen in the world. After his 20th Test , for instance. And after his . But you'd go a long way down the list of best batsmen of recent times before you got to either of them.
119th over: England 361-4 (Trott 153, Bell 39) Perera is bowling a very good spell here. Shame he didn't do that yesterday. Just a single from his latest over.
120th over: England 363-4 (Trott 154, Bell 40) It really is extraordinary that there is absolutely no discernible difference between Trott's batting now and Trott's batting when his score was on 0. Here he knocks a single out to square leg.
121st over: England 363-4 (Trott 154, Bell 40) This is getting stupid. Trott decides that his 101st over in the middle will be a maiden, and blocks all six balls from Perera.
122nd over: England 365-4 (Trott 154, Bell 42) Trott's strike rate is 48, which, as Bumble points out, isn't as sluggish as all that when you compare it to likes of Rahul Dravid and Shiv Chanderpaul, who you could argue were similar sorts of batsmen. The difference here, Bumble, is that Chanderpaul once scored the fourth fastest century in the history of Test cricket - off just 69 balls and against Australia too. So he could change gear. He matched his pace to the situation. Trott does not do that, and that's why he seems such a stick-in-the-mud.
123rd over: England 365-4 (Trott 154, Bell 42) The camera has picked out Marigold Man again. Did one of you OBO readers suggest that his next move should be to pass out in a drunken stupor on his mate's shoulder? Because that is what he appears to have done. Well done Marigold Man. Trott plays out a second consecutive maiden off of Perera.
124th over: England 368-4 (Trott 156, Bell 43) "Younger readers want to know," writes Scott W, "Is this how Boycott used to bat?" You are joking? Boycott hardly managed a strike rate of 48 in ODIs, never mind Tests.
125th over: England 368-4 (Trott 156, Bell 43) "Is Trott Chris Tavare reborn?" wonders Adam. Again, look up Tavare's stats and you'll realise how lucky we are to be blessed with Trott. Tav had the mind-blowing Test strike rate of 30.6. Perera bowls a third straight maiden, this time to Bell.
126th over: England 368-4 (Trott 156, Bell 43) Glory be! An lbw appeal. Umpire Doctrove turns it down. "So if Trott announced his retirement from Tests after this game - where would you put him in the pantheon of English / world batsmen?" asks Will O'Connor. "Statistical freak or borderline genius?" Statistical freak, I'm afraid, if a wonderfully steely one. Like I say, if he makes it through as many Tests again and keeps that average up above 60 then it'll be time to call him a genius. He hasn't even faced a decent spin attack in Tests yet, unless you count last year's series in Bangladesh.
127th over: England 372-4 (Trott 156, Bell 47) It's worth pointing out that Sri Lanka aren't exactly playing attacking cricket themselves - they're sticking to this wide-of-off-stump line, and the fields are negative. Mendis hasn't even bowled an over today. Bell slices four away to fine leg off the inside edge.
128th over: England 372-4 (Trott 162, Bell 48) Trott has hit two fours in his last 125 balls. The last of them was 12 overs ago. Imagine the relief then, when a misfield in the deep means he manages a third.
129th over: England 380-4 (Trott 164, Bell 53) An excellent spell from Perera this, as I've said. He's into his eight over straight now, and the seven that came before this have cost just 11 runs. There's Bell's fifty, raised with a sweetly-struck pull for four through mid-wicket. A wonderful shot.
130th over: England 386-4 (Trott 168, Bell 53) Trott has scored 39 runs from his 126 balls today. That is all.
131st over: England 392-4 (Trott 169, Bell 54) Suranga Lakmal is going to get his chance to bang his head into the brick wall now.
132nd over: England 394-4 (Trott 169, Bell 55) "Boring, boring England!" comes the cry from the crowd. And that's about all you need to know about this over. Drinks!
133rd over: England 397-4 (Trott 169, Bell 58) "I think we need to lay off our man Trott here," says Iain Little. "There were series, decades, AEONS when we'd have killed for a player of his ilk. Up to the others to bat and accelerate around him. I hate the idea of a cult of negativity building up around him, generally you know, not on OBO. I know you it's well documented, and it's a dull passage of play sometimes when he's involved, but that's part of the glory of a test, it can be a grind can't it? The Sri Lankans aren't able to deal with this particular test it seems." It's a good and fair point, Iain. I don't dislike Trott - he was marvellous in the World Cup, and the criticism he got for slow-scoring there was bizarre and ignorant given that he was performing a clearly-defined role for the team. But it has to be said that this innings - and especially today's half of it - has been awful to watch, as much fun as having a tooth pulled and yet considerably less engaging. It's been like a long, long stint in the dentist's waiting room with only a copy of Now Magazine from 1998 to keep you company. The more time I spend watching sport, the more aware I become that the players I value most are the one who play it to entertain. Trott has many admirable qualities, but that isn't one of them.
134th over: England 401-4 (Trott 171, Bell 58) Ajantha Mendis finally comes into the attack, and England pass Sri Lanka's total from the fifth ball of his over.
135th over: England 407-4 (Trott 178, Bell 59) Roars of applause break out as Trott thumps four down the ground. This is now the highest score ever made against Sri Lanka by an Englishman, beating Graham Gooch's record from 1991.
136th over: England 415-4 (Trott 180, Bell 63) "The thing is, when we all slope off to watch the Channel Five highlights in an hour's time, it'll look pretty good," points out John Starbuck. "Reassuring even, with Bell's better shots edited between Trott's cover drives. The maidens will not be shown - odd that, ain't it? We who follow the OBO will sit there chuntering about how it's a false picture, that reality is not like this, and we'll be slapped down as limp Matrix conspiracists." If ever a day of Test cricket was made for highlights, this was it. Crickey. As adverts for a product go this one has been up there with Go Compare!'s recent campaign.
137th over: England 422-4 (Trott 182, Bell 70) Perera is back on now. "If you think Trott's boring I remember when Australia's first 4 were Taylor, Marsh, Boon, Border;" says Michael Golding. I suspect a few of us do, Michael, given that it was 20 years ago. "I don't ever recall hearing an Aussie fan complain. Trott's a Test Match batsman if ever there was one, far better than the kind of batsman who's been all too common for England over the last 30 years - good for a quick 35-40 and then gone. I hope he's here for a good few years yet, irritating the hell out of opposition bowlers." Yes, that's all true enough.
138th over: England 427-4 (Trott 186, Bell 71) Mendis has been yanked off again, and Herath has come back on. Something is awry there, and no word of a lie. More words in favour of Trott, this time from Gary Naylor: "Trott is putting up the individual numbers, but that's not all. In his six series before this one, he's been on the winning side five times and got a creditable, if fortunate, draw in the other (away vs South Africa). He can go along in his own sweet way, but he gets the team to some interesting destinations."
139th over: England 438-4 (Trott 195, Bell 73) "Does anyone feel like playing a game of Rank the England Top Seven by What We Think Their Average Will Be When They Retire?" asks Dan Luccas. "For me: Cook, Trott, KP, Bell, Strauss, Prior, Morgan." Mendis is back on at the other end, and Trott wallops him for four through mid-wicket, and four more to extra cover.
140th over: England 438-4 (Trott 195, Bell 73) "Trott is doing what he always does," says Julien Allen. "It isn't entertaining and isn't meant to be. If England become #1 in the world, it'll be in no small measure down to him. The question to ask is why are we playing Test cricket in May, in Wales?"
REFERRAL! Trott 195 c Jayawardene b Herath Surely they haven't got him out? No. Surely they haven't. The decision stands and Trott bats on. Sri Lanka appealed for a catch off the glove, as Trott tried a sweep shot that. He missed the ball, and it flicked up off his forearm on its way through. This is the best argument for Trott that we've had yet today, and there have been a lot, from Robert Ellson: "I take your point about Trott's lack of entertainment, but I can't help thinking of the famous Karachi Test in 2000 - Atherton got all manner of stick for scoring a 12-hour hundred, but it got England into a position where they were the only team who could win the game. Athers' strike rate that day of 29.06 would make IJL Trott look like IVA Richards. But all that anyone will remember was the cracking last day. Here's hoping the same will be true tomorrow."
141st over: England 438-4 (Trott 196, Bell 75) Mendis is yanked off again, and Dilshan brings himself on. A scattering of singles are what England take from his over.
141st over: England 443-4 (Trott 196, Bell 84) A delicious reverse sweep for four from Bell has Bumble chuckling: "You cheeky monkey!"
144th over: England 450-4 (Trott 196, Bell 84) "Much as I have an enormous technical respect for the powers of concentration and discipline on show here, this is exactly the sort of stiflingly dull game which should at least serve to promote the Test Championship initiative," reckons Will Davies. "There's no way England could have lost this game from the position they held this morning and we would surely have seen a more positive approach from both sides had the result of this game mattered in the context of an ongoing league table. When pundits talk of the death of 50 over or Test Match cricket, they're referring only to the increase of meaningless games such as this one. I can't remember if it has already been ratified or if it's still in the planning stages but the sooner they can bring it in, the better."
REFERRAL! Bell 88 c Jayawardene b Dilshan An appeal for a catch behind is turned down, so Dilshan refers it. He thinks there was the faintest of feather-edges as Bell tried a leg glance. There wasn't, so the not out decision stands and Sri Lanka have now used up their referrals.
145th over: England 458-4 (Trott 197, Bell 90) Bell sneaks a single off a ball that ricocheted off the 'keeper's gloves and rolled back in front of the stumps.
146th over: England 462-4 (Trott 200, Bell 91) "As you said, you like players that entertain and that is surely why Bell, Morgan, Pietersen and to a certain extent Strauss are in the side, Prior even," opines Charles Davies. "Given the number of gifted strokemakers England already possess surely having someone like Trott in the side is essential? Therefore when he plays like he has today, surely he should be exempt from criticism. Bell seems to be playing superbly and if Trott is happy to play the way he does then it can only be a good thing for the England team. Imagine all the fuss there would be if you were to take him out of the team and put Bopara in at three to score pretty 20s and 30s and then get out. To fault Trott's performance in any way during this Test seems slightly silly to me." You mistake me Mr Davies. I'm not criticising the way he has batted, I'm saying it is boring to watch. And it is. And there is his 200.
148th over: England 462-4 (Trott 200, Bell 91) Herath's umpteenth over costs a solitary run.
148th over: England 465-4 (Trott 203, Bell 91) "It looks like your emotional response to watching a day's Trotting is being worn down by a million reasoned, considered viewpoints," says Will Scott, astutely. "Sod 'em! Stick to your guns! We want Eoin and his reverse scoops and all that coming on at 3 and giving it sh*t or bust for our viewing pleasure. Admit it. Free yourself of those worthy chains. PS: I like the fact that this discussion reached its fever pitch while Trott and Bell scored 40 off 6."
WICKET! Trott 203 b Dilshan I hear there are icicles in hell. Look out the window and you'll see a pig with wings. Trott goes, to a strange sort of shot, leaping back and across and swinging frantically at a ball that kept a little low. He missed it altogether, and was clean bowled. He got a few handshakes from the Sri Lankans as he left the field, and an ovation from his teammates back in the dressing room. Here's Eoin Morgan then. What a thankless task he has, with just four overs of the day to go. He slashes his very first ball away square for a single.
150th over: England 477-5 (Bell 96, Morgan 6) Bell is trying to hurry along to his hundred before the close, mindful, as Nasser says, that Strauss may not give him a chance to get there tomorrow morning. He sneaks three runs with clip out towards cover. And Morgan then wallops Dilshan for four back over his head. A wonderful shot, bold, daring and skilful.
151st over: England 481-5 (Bell 97, Morgan 9) A harum-scarum single takes Bell to 97. Morgan's arrival has added so much urgency to this game, it's like a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart. He strides out and steers two runs down to third man. The he plays a reverse sweep for a single.
152nd over: England 491-5 (Bell 98, Morgan 14) The last over of the day begins with Morgan on strike. He drives hard at the first ball and watches it shoot away for four off the outside edge. A cut to cover puts Bell on strike, and he has three balls to get the three runs he needs for his ton. He thinks he has them when the ball deflects away fine, but the umpire rules that it was byes rather than runs. Bell laughs it off, takes a single off the last ball and ends on 98.