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The Wisden Bulletin by Freddie Auld
December 21, 2003
Down and out: Mark Butcher heads back to the pavilion
© Getty Images
Sri Lanka swept to a colossal victory against England in the final Test in Colombo. They romped home by an innings and 215 runs, and thus took the series 1-0. After setting England the small matter of scoring 363 runs just to avoid an innings defeat, the Sri Lankan attack blew away the batsmen for a meagre 148, in 68 overs.
It was a deserved victory for Sri Lanka, who won their first series against England. They have been the dominant team throughout this match and the previous two, and Hashan Tillakaratne's belated first triumph as captain could hardly have been more emphatic. Meanwhile, a demoralised England were left to contemplate their poor first-innings display and some shoddy fielding - they never looked like performing yet another Great Escape this time.
It was that man Muttiah Muralitharan who again led the way with four wickets, including his 100th in Tests at the Sinhalese Sports Club. But the rest of the bowlers contributed as well. Dilhara Fernando claimed three scalps with an impressive display of swing bowling, while the wily Sanath Jayasuriya chipped in with two.
Indeed, it was the seamers, Fernando and Chaminda Vaas, who made the early impact to start England's collapse. Marcus Trescothick, who has rarely been at his best in this series, flashed loosely at the final ball of Vaas's first over, and steered a simple catch to the substitute fielder, Michael Vandort, in the gully (0 for 1). And just to make things worse for Trescothick, it appeared to be an uncalled no-ball. When Michael Vaughan was then suckered by a Fernando slower ball and popped a drive up to Jayasuriya in the covers for 14, England's realistic hopes of battling for a draw departed with him.
It was just a matter of time until Murali struck, and he became the first player to take 100 Test wickets on a single ground with the scalp of his old mate Nasser Hussain. After serving up a succession of offbreaks, Murali turned one the other way, and Hussain got the faintest of edges through to Kumar Sangakkara (49 for 3).
Mark Butcher and Graham Thorpe battled on carefully, and looked to score when they could. Thorpe latched on to anything short, pulling Vaas and Upul Chandana to the boundary, while Butcher flicked Chandana past midwicket and played one peachy cover-drive off Murali.
They were just beginning to steady the ship, but it wasn't long before Murali blew the SS England way off course again with two wickets in as many balls. Thorpe came down the track, was completely bamboozled in the flight, and was stumped by yards (82 for 4). Gareth Batty then came in ahead of Andrew Flintoff, who could not bat until the fall of the fifth wicket because of the time he spent off the field yesterday. Batty completed a forgettable match by bowing out of the tour with a golden duck. In a dismissal similar to Butcher's second stumping at Kandy, Batty prodded forward to Murali and Sangakkara whipped off the bails with the toe on the line, but not behind it (82 for 5).
The ship was now sinking fast, and Jayasuriya ripped away England's last anchor with the big wicket of Butcher. Bowling over the wicket, Jayasuriya ripped a big-turning ball through Butcher's flat-footed defence and hit middle stump (84 for 6). Chris Read was the next to go, palpably lbw to Jayasuriya's quicker ball.
The beginning of the end: Marcus Trescothick falls to Chaminda Vaas
© Getty Images
Flintoff and Ashley Giles added a stubborn 40 either side of tea before Giles was sent packing by a beauty of an inswinging yorker from Fernando (124 for 8). Flintoff mixed defence with a few beefy blows in his 30. Finally, attempting to guide Fernando over the slips, Flintoff misdirected the ball high to Sangakkara's right (137 for 9). Fittingly, it was Murali who wrapped things up with his 26th victim of the series when he bowled James Kirtley all ends up to start the celebrations - and the England inquest.
The only thing that didn't go to plan for Sri Lanka was that Chandana and Tillakaratne Dilshan failed to reach their centuries before the declaration at 628 for 8 in the morning. Giles did for Dilshan with a sharply turning leg-stump delivery, and followed that up with a sprightly piece of fielding off his own bowling, as he deftly deflected a straight-drive from Chandana into the stumps at the non-striker's end, to run out Vaas for 9. Chandana, who had thwacked Kirtley for a big six over midwicket, then carved to a leaping Vaughan at short cover for 76.
But, for the umpteenth time in this series, Murali was in the mood for a slog. Giles's figures took another turn for the worse as 20 runs came from his 65th and final over of the innings, including two vast sixes. It was the most entertaining mini-session of the innings - but it was all immaterial in the light of England's later collapse.
What's wrong with their cricket? Well, what isn't?