England's odd couple produce again
You know it's been a slow day at the cricket when the loudest cheers are reserved for a spectator dressed as a master of the hunt clambering aboard a pantomime horse and riding it round the boundary boards.
All morning long, unrelenting waves of rain had washed across Cardiff, and everyone had complained of terminal boredom. Then play began, much sooner than anyone
expected, and the complaints actually increased in volume.
It might not have been rock and roll, but the England hierarchy liked it. By the close the hosts were 287-2, the partnership between Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott up to 240 and apparently impervious to anything except old age.
England, 353 runs behind at the start of play, had gone from second best to a point where a draw is a near certainty. The new-look Sri Lankan attack, mystery spinners and all, looked as spicy as a slice of white bread.
Test cricket has always been as much graft and grind as thrills and spills. Forget the thousands of empty seats hours before the close, or the fact that the dominant topic of conversation all day had been the evening's Champions League final. This was one for the puritans. The cavaliers could seek their breathless pleasures elsewhere.
Fast it wasn't. The England 200 took 434 balls and almost five hours, contained just 13 boundaries and dribbled along for the most of the afternoon and under 2.5 runs an over. At one stage Cook went almost two hours without a four.
He couldn't have cared less. Neither could Trott. It's exactly what has made them England's predominant batsmen in the last nine months.
Together they are starting to make the top order look rather unbalanced. In the Ashes last winter they dominated the run-scoring, putting on 502 unbroken runs over the first two Tests and eventually ending with averages of 127 and 89 apiece. Between them they scored 25% more runs than the rest of the top six put together.
The opposition and weather may have changed but their approach and outcomes have not.
Some in the crowd clearly felt a few more fireworks were required to light up such a damp squib of a day. There was talk of what a pumped-up Kevin Pietersen could do, or whether Eoin Morgan might repeat his Lions mauling of the tourists from a week ago.
Instead Pietersen sat with his pads on for another age, and Morgan didn't even liberate his from the kitbag.
Cook and Trott have formed a bond as successful as it is unlikely. The latter is an anxious starter and twitchy stayer - scratching that trench on the popping crease, fiddling his way through an extended routine before every ball that he faces. Cook, by contrast, increasingly resembles a run-making robot, as unflustered on 99 as he is on nine.
Alastair Cook (left) and Jonathan Trott have become the dominant pairing in England's batting line-up. Pic:PA.
Physically they could not look more different; the tall, lean left-hander with a headful of thick dark hair, the short right-hander with a stubbly scalp and stocky frame.
But this is an odd coupling that works. This was their fourth century partnership in their last eight matches together, and like most of the others it is a biggie.
Trott's form coming into this first Test was uncertain. In his three first-class games so far this summer his run of scores read nine, 39, nine, four and 32. Despite that he has delivered again, England's best number three in a generation and the answer to a problem position that more glitzy names had failed to fill.
Six centuries in 19 Tests tells its own story, as does an average climbing fast past 65. Of batsmen to have played more than 20 Tests, only Don Bradman began with a better average.
Does he put bums on seats? Not yet. Runs on the board? Almost always.
This was his fifth ton in 10 Test innings, a near chanceless knock that was so well paced that that the two 50s that made it were scored at precisely the same rate: 112 balls each, four fours apiece.
At the age of 26 he now has 17 England centuries, the same as the infinitely more glamorous Pietersen and only two shy of his opening partner Andrew Strauss, who is also eight years his senior.
Heading the list of England Test century scorers are Wally Hammond, Geoff Boycott and Colin Cowdrey, all with 22, with Ken Barrington and Graham Gooch next in the list with 20.
Strauss has a better than even chance of topping that tree before he retires. Unless injury intervenes, Cook will have it off him shortly afterwards.
Form can fluctuate. Confidence can go. But taking into account his current rate of scoring - 17 Test tons in five years - and the potentially 10 years he could have left in Test cricket, it's not unreasonable to suggest that he could finish with at least double his current number.
34 Test centuries? No-one could accuse that of being dull.