England v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Cardiff, 5th day May 30, 2011

More overseas woe for Sri Lanka

ESPNcricinfo staff
Nobody expected the final day or have any interest, least of all, it seems, the Sri Lanka batsmen who were caught out in dramatic fashion

At around 2pm, with dark clouds still blanketing the sky, the press box greeted the announcement that there would be 55 overs of play with hoots of derision. When it was mentioned that there would be a minimum of 15 overs in the final hour, even more laughter followed, prompting the announcer to defend himself. "I'm just conveying the message, don't shoot the messenger."

The press pack weren't the only ones expecting a dull draw. The fans in Cardiff braved the dismal weather over the past four days, and while there was never a full house, each day at least had a few thousand people in. On Monday, when the attention of Wales was focused on the football Championship play-off between Swansea City and Reading, only a few dozen showed up for what was shaping up to be a snoozefest.

Those staying away seemed to have made the wise choice as well, as Reading blasted two goals in eight minutes to launch a stirring fight back from the depths of 3-0. Sri Lanka, meanwhile, had had some early jitters, losing their openers but their two most accomplished batsmen, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, were seemingly killing off any further excitement in the match by calmly steering the team to tea.

The mayhem over the next hour and a half then was hard to explain as Sri Lanka were rolled over for their shortest innings in Test history. Sure, the England bowlers were hostile, but keeling over for 82 on a track where the home side had just piled on 496 for 5 defied explanation. The pitch hadn't suddenly become a minefield, there were three Sri Lanka batsmen meeting the Test gold standard of a 50-plus average and the opposition had only three specialist bowlers with Jimmy Anderson sidelined by a side strain.

Even after Mahela nicked one to slip, there wasn't too much alarm as the next man in was Thilan Samaraweera, a dour batsman who could be relied upon to grind out a two-hour defensive lesson. Instead of playing it safe, Samaraweera attempted an expansive shot off the back foot and chopped the ball on to the stumps for a nine-ball duck. That snapped any semblance of Sri Lankan resistance.

As the top-order floundered, there had been a debate over whether England should have declared overnight or used up a couple of overs to allow Ian Bell to complete his century. Should the team cause have come first or a minor individual milestone on a seemingly run-filled track? All that was rendered insignificant as Sri Lanka were blown away in glorious sunshine with 26 overs remaining.

What made the meek surrender even more demoralising was that the batting in the first innings was about the only thing that Sri Lanka could be happy about in the Test. Posting 400 even without their two star batsmen contributing had, on the face of it, vindicated a risky policy of playing five bowlers. The fielding was inept at most times, exemplified by a series of unathletic dives, and the worries over the bowling proved warranted as the attack lacked spark.

Now, they have the added dilemma of whether to shore up the batting and push Prasanna Jayawardene down to No. 7 or stick to a similar combination and demand that a curtailed batting line-up deliver.

Before the series started, Sri Lankan fans hadn't taken kindly to suggestions that their side are rank outsiders, pointing to their No. 4 ranking, one ahead of former champions Australia. Nor were they happy with talk that this series was just a warm-up for Andrew Strauss's side before the marquee one against India later in the summer as England set about achieving their goal of becoming the top side in the world.

For all the strides that Sri Lanka have taken in limited-overs cricket - runners-up in successive World Cups, and reaching at least the semi-finals of the previous two World Twenty20s - their Test record outside the subcontinent remains poor. They are yet to win a Test in Australia, South Africa and India, and a victory in a full series in England appears elusive. This tour seems unlikely to be the first step towards improving that reputation, with the interim coach and a new captain having only three days to revive a shell-shocked side before the Lord's Test.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sudhakar on June 2, 2011, 17:05 GMT

    @Gururprasad, nice way of summing up the current situation. I guess the deep animosity - especially between SL & India is because of Sanga openly criticizing the ranking system when India reached the number one ranking in Test cricket. Obviously this must have rubbed the wrong side of several of hard core Indian cricket fans. YES, Sri Lanka needs to play more cricket away from home to become more competent. But till that happens, let the likes of Sanga stop questioning the credibility of India being the number one side.

  • Dummy4 on June 2, 2011, 10:34 GMT

    @LankanWonder: You seriously need to look @ ICC codes mate. It is our board who requests and arranges the Tours. ICC just approves it. Even we didn't like to play the same teams every now and then but just blindly blaming ICC and shielding our boards won't help. It was indeed BCCI & SLC's brain...

  • boy on June 2, 2011, 2:33 GMT

    @shobhit2983: Yeah Einstein and Sri Lanka gets to choose which country to tour and which country not to tour. It's ICC that manages FTP no SLC hence we always get a raw deal. Believe me if we could choose, we wouldn't bother to play India 20 times a year, we would've rather played teams like Aussie, England, SA. And cricinfo keep continuing with your trend of publishing every moronic comment by Indians but only 1/10 by Sri Lankans. Erm, maybe cricinfo is not an english website after all.

  • Dummy4 on June 1, 2011, 23:41 GMT

    i dont know y so many people r blaming IPL for sri lanka's loss.... remember India has been a no. 1 test team for the last two years roughly n IPL is 4 yrs old... so if IPL was responsible for a drop in TEST playing quality of cricketers then India wud never be no1 because all their players play in IPL... so stop whining...

  • Valavan on June 1, 2011, 20:22 GMT

    haha interesting, why many indian fans come here speak about sachin. why they spam up here. the topic here is about Srilankan Overseas wows. what is sachins or IPLs business here. SL fans must accept they are not the same formidable side as before rather than giving lame excuses like fast bowler injuries and so on. SL lost to England in 2001 and 2002 even with murali and vaasy in side, so why so much fuss here.

  • Guruprasad on June 1, 2011, 17:43 GMT

    As a cricket fan, I am dismayed by the comments of several readers on this forum. There seems to be a lot of animosity between some fans of Sri Lanka, India and England. England won a remarkable test match, but all this may inspire SL to make a comeback in the series. On SL's overseas woes (to summarize): 1. SL need to play more tests abroad. 2. They need capable replacements for Murali and Vaas. 3. More players in the playing 11 need to contribute, rather than only a few. 4. They are playing in the early season in England, so conditions are tough and alien to them. 5. Note that many SL players are touring England for the first time. 6. Due to IPL, Mahela and Sanga perhaps delayed their arrival in England. However, the decision was mostly theirs. 7. This failure does not make Sanga and Mahela poor batsmen all of a sudden. They are classy players and will come back. 8. Lets not compare overseas records of different teams here. There are far too many factors to account for.

  • Shobhit on June 1, 2011, 17:01 GMT

    The main thing is tht SL have themselves to blame for this defeat. In the last 15 years they are continuously playing at home pitches where murali will get 10-12 wickets and one of there top 5 batsmen will get a double century and they will win the game. Now when they are tested on a true wicket they show there real worth, so Sangakara, Dilshan, Jayawardane, its time not to question other countries ranking, its time to improve your country ranking....play on true pitches, not dust bowl like colombo, kandy etc

  • Dummy4 on June 1, 2011, 14:26 GMT

    Vaas has taken 10 wickets today in the match against glamorgan

  • Dummy4 on June 1, 2011, 12:41 GMT

    lol, who cares :) we won the world cup :)

  • Dru on June 1, 2011, 11:24 GMT

    I am not sure where some of you have lost the plot and fanatically defending SL/Ind/IPL/Sachin ETC. The fact is SL's record overseas is poor. The fact is SL were blessed with the Murali/Vaas combo for 2 decades. Fact is take those two away and SL's bowling will struggle to bowl out any team twice. Fact is SL is all about batting. Fact is SL batting flopped like an egg hopper from the previous day. There are excuses, wild allegations, challenges and then there are facts and the fact is SL were woefully poor in the first test wth both bat and ball.

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