The last day of a Test Match is often like a town that has lost its main industry. The structure is still the same, but the town has that eerie walking-dead feel to it. There are many reasons why people don’t come, but they’re all nonsense. It’s massively underpopulated, better seats are available, you don’t have to line up for food as long, it’s cheaper and you’re guaranteed to see the end of the match. I’ve been lucky over the years, I’ve seen a Warne hat-trick, an incredible Kallis hundred, and Freddie Flintoff bowl Australia out in one match and throw them out in another.
The best part is often not even the cricket. The last day is your chance to see a carnival atmosphere at a Test match. Everyone from the players to the security guards are more relaxed. Things are being packed up, players mingle with fans and weirdness can happen.
On day five at Galle, I ended up being given a beer by the president of the SLC, was cheered on for my suits by the Sri Lankan support staff and walked past the trucks that were clearing out the toilets.
On day five at the P Sara, I listened to a conversation.
Now I’m well aware that this conversation may not have interested everyone, but when Suraj Randiv and Graeme Swann found each other out on the ground, I knew what they were talking about. You could tell by their hands that it was nerd spin talk.
To get close enough to hear I had to push through the crowd who were holding up English kit that had been thrown to them by the players, police officers who were standing there without really doing anything and the throng of people trying to take photos of Swann. I got as close to Randiv and Swann as the massive English security officer would let me. Then I had to block out the many fans who were planning to get something signed the minute the conversation ended.
The first bits I heard where Swann talking about wrist position. My persistence had paid off. For the next three minutes I was listening to a spin bowling masterclass. Randiv had clearly asked Swann about his action and whether he imparted too much over-spin on the ball. Swann explained his own action, and suggested that too much over-spin wasn’t a problem for Randiv as he still ragged it.
Wrists, fingers, arm height and follow through were all discussed as Randiv, and I, listened intently. Randiv, Swanny’s Padawan learner, and me, the lucky eavesdropper.
The conversation ended with Swanny being very complimentary to Randiv about his bowling. He never said ‘attaboy’, but it was one of those sorts of conversations. I assume it boosted Randiv; even I was ready to hit the nets and try a few offies to see if Swann’s words could help me. And I’m a leggie.
The last day of a Test, whether it be the third, fourth or fifth day, can contain a nugget or two of magic, on or off the pitch, during or after the game.