England v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Rose Bowl, 5th day June 20, 2011

Sangakkara finally breaks his England hoodoo


A grand total of 369 overs were lost to the rain in the course of England's three Tests against Sri Lanka - which is roughly 26 and a half hours' worth of play, or nearly four full days out of a possible 15. It was only fitting, therefore, that on the stroke of tea on the final afternoon, yet another dirty great cloud rolled across the Rose Bowl to extinguish the final embers of a contest that, but for a crazy 24 overs in Cardiff last month, would never have come close to igniting.

If the hardy citizens of Hampshire arrived at the ground today hoping for, and maybe expecting, a similar burst of finality from England's bowlers, then at least they left with the consolation of having watched one of the game's modern greats produce an innings that has been long overdue.

Kumar Sangakkara's six-and-a-half hour 119 was the 25th century of his 97-Test career, but his first in nine attempts in England. In partnership first with the nightwatchman Rangana Herath, and then with his fellow stalwart Thilan Samaraweera, he repelled England's advances on a pitch that Andrew Strauss ruefully remarked was effectively a day three wicket.

The sting of the first day had certainly disappeared, but the application that Sangakkara showed could not be under-estimated. Had he failed to build on his overnight 44, England would surely have fancied their chances of wrapping up a 2-0 win.

"It's very satisfying," said Sangakkara at the close. "To score a hundred, especially in England, is quite an achievement coming from the subcontinent. It would have been nice to have done it at Lord's, but that's something you have to get over. It's nice to finally get there."

In the final reckoning, the innings does little to redress the imbalance of Sangakkara's Test average in England. His mark now stands at 30.58, which is barely half his overall figure of 56.18, and he admitted that it had taken him longer to adjust to the bounce and movement in this country - a process not helped by his belated arrival from the IPL in India.

"I just kept getting out," he said. "When I first came to England [in 2002] I was a bit at sea and tried to make some adjustments, but was not getting anywhere. Second time around I had two opportunities [66 and 65], one at Lord's when I got out to Monty Panesar. So coming here from the IPL it was a case of adjusting again. Not just technically but also mentally. It took me a bit too long to do that."

Nevertheless, there was some satisfaction to be gleaned from Sri Lanka's final-day performance. At times on this tour, with the bat in Cardiff and with the old ball in most of England's innings, they have performed with the fragility of a side ranked far lower than their No. 4 billing. It was important, therefore, to make a statement of the class that still exists in their cricket since the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan.

"Cricket is all about continuously improving what you can do and what you can do as a team," he said. "And what you can achieve if you perform as a team collectively. Our ambition now has to be to consolidate with the players we have, the ability we have and find new ways of winning Test matches. We don't have Muralitharan any more, we don't have [Chaminda] Vaas. For us to win, we have to find different avenues. That's the thing for us. Those are the questions we need to answer in the months ahead."

But for that crazy session in Cardiff, Sri Lanka would have escaped with a drawn series, and Sangakkara was well aware of that fact. "That was probably the biggest regret on this tour," he said. "None of us were switched on to that situation really. We just needed to bat consistently for 25 or 30 overs - just one pair to put on a proper partnership on a wicket that was flatter than this one. It just goes to show that one mistake, two mistakes, can magnify a situation that we should have been capable of handling nine times out of ten."

With the debutant Lahiru Thiramanne demonstrating a technique and temperament that enabled him to survive on a tricky surface and, in all likelihood, to thrive on more benign ones, Sri Lanka's batting still looks capable of sustaining their status in the world game. England's more powerful bowlers made the difference in this rubber, as they continue to push towards the No. 1 spot, but Sangakkara refused to believe that his team's days as a top-ranked side are numbered.

"I think all the sides in the top six have their eye on that prize," he said. "We do too. But for us to do that, we need to improve our record away from home. England has a great all-round side and I think they can realistically achieve that ambition. But there are sides to beat, milestones to achieve along the way. We just have to wait and see if the teams battling for that position can deliver."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mark on June 23, 2011, 17:52 GMT

    @rade2rising having a technical flaw doesn't mean you'll never get any runs. most batsmen have flaws, cook has several for example. the point is sangakkara's record in england is not an anomaly in light of that flaw. kallis has no such flaw, so his average in england can be seen in the light of one particularly bad tour. i looked up this record of his in australia, which you keep trumpeting. he's toured twice, once in 2004, with australia at their peak, played 2 games and averaged 35. once in 2008, he played one match and averaged 124, pretty slim evidence of a fantastic record in australia. do you actually believe sanga is as good as kallis? i actually think jayawardene is better than sanga, not popular at the moment, cos he's had a bad tour, but a class player nonetheless.

  • Radeepa on June 23, 2011, 5:22 GMT

    @cyniket - tell me have u ever seen sanga batting before against Aus, Nz bowlers in their home conditions ? i dont think u have, coz if u have seen then u wont say that's a technical flaw. sanga is probably Sl's best test batsman who can play well against swing, bounce. and yea he did tour england 2 times before, but before he played as WK+batsman not as a pure batsman. u see there's a big difference. again morgan played against SL's inexperience ordinary bowling attack while sanga had to play against world's current-best test bowlers ( anderson, swan, broady, tremlet). did u know that kalls also dont have a good record in england ? his Average is just under 30. so there u go mate :) there's no excuse, all i'm saying it's just another record just like Kalli's record in england, sehwag's record in SAF, NZ.

  • FAISAL on June 22, 2011, 14:40 GMT

    srilankan cricket board,peoples,players everybody is jealous with INDIAN CRICKET..... thats why they are screaming like mad..... last times sanga was quarelling (crying) on medias that "we want no1 and please ....do not give to india:" TO ALL LANKAN FANS... ranking systems based on performance of the team against all test playing nations..u cannot purchase it from supermarket with bargaining ..mind it... we indians are currently no1 and will try to retain in performance..

  • Anjana on June 22, 2011, 12:25 GMT

    @ lijihas: We Sri Lankan fans never get emotional on highest victories or shameful defeats and that has been our mark, so never expect to come to streets anyway. We never throw stones at players's houses when our team loses. But fans in some other country do that so often and they think that fans in their neighboring countries also do so!!!!! Fans in Sri Lanka are educated and they only enjoy cricket. Even in big losses, fans sing and dance with our trademark papare bands. But fans in some other country have been doing so and lot of security is required in such situations.

  • lijihas on June 22, 2011, 11:16 GMT


  • Mark on June 22, 2011, 4:33 GMT

    @nesith. it's not confirmation bias, but it's all positive for sri lanka who lost, and it's all negative for england who won, strange. england lack ruthlessness, but they polished sri lanka off in 24 overs at cardiff and managed to win a series in which each test lost an average of a day and a half to rain. "if they didn't lose those ten wickets at cardiff it would have been a drawn series" possibly true and if they had eleven better players they might have won, but they don't and they didn't. I'm really bored with this whole no.1 business. you don't need any special qualities to be no.1, if you beat the other teams then you'll be no.1. the australian team that you mentioned isn't around anymore, so england don't need to be that good to be no.1. finally, i'm sure this bloke pradeep is the new malcolm marshall and he would have made all the difference, like all the other injured players in history who have made all the difference in people's heads. he's never even played a test

  • Mark on June 22, 2011, 4:22 GMT

    @meety "how silly of me" indeed! england started to hit out with bell and morgan at the crease, effectively only 4 down. without the time pressure, they would have just carried on.

  • Mark on June 22, 2011, 4:19 GMT

    @rade2rising. everyone plays stupid shots from time to time. my point was that when the ball swings away from him he follows it, even if he is playing defensively, which is a technical flaw. he played a season in warwickshire, he's toured england 2 or 3 times, there's no excuse. eoin morgan played in the ipl and he hasn't had any problems. we don't really disagree though, i do think he's a very good player. interesting that you mentioned sehwag, i'd also put him in a similar bracket. one level down from tendulkar and kallis.

  • Andrew on June 22, 2011, 3:18 GMT

    @James Badge Wing, still think it was well set after technically 3 days of play. Questionable how many runs Tremlett & Swan would of got! @ Flat_Track_bullies - England lost to India at home recently? That was a long while ago & is passed history. India need to actually win a series off the sub-continent against a "proper" team before they've fully earned the #1 rank! LOL! @cyniket - oh yeah! Swann & Tremlett could of got centuries & batted SL out of the match. How silly of me! LOL! The reality is that with Cook & Trott in the side there would be every chance if it was a timeless test England could overhaul any target SL set. Historically though - chasing any score over 200 is not easy. Given SL had 5 wickets & a tail that could easily wag (or fold), its not beyond realms of possibility that SL could of got a lead of 300. Whether England declared or not chasing 300 would not of been easy.

  • Nesith on June 22, 2011, 2:29 GMT

    @cyniket Its not confirmation bias, fact of the matter is your so called great bowlers didn't finish off SL, I didnt say that SL was ever going to win the series nor that they deserve a drawn series, all I was pointing out was that if they didn't loose those 10 wickets at cardif it would have been a drawn series, then How can ENG claim greatness ,If it was AUS team of 90s we would have lost 3-0, SL just have a young team and they don't have any bowlers who have experience, hence why ENG scored 450+ after been 32/3(hence why I said would have been interesting to see nuwan pradeep who bowls 90+)Its true that SL never looked likely to take 20 wickets, BUT ENG to be a great Team should've finished off SL with all the opportunities they had so in that view SL did pretty well just to loose 1-0 and its my belief that ENG is far from becoming no 1, They do not posses the ruthlessness that Aussies had, That's what they need to become No-1

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