England v Sri Lanka, 1st Investec Test, Lord's, 5th day June 16, 2014

Pradeep makes his stand

Sri Lanka were left relying on the unlikeliest of heroes as a dramatic last hour drew to its conclusion
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Play 01:09
Video report - Nuwan Pradeep is the new star of Sri Lanka

There are nine fielders out on the ground but they are casting 36 shadows. For a side trying to bat out 90 overs away from home, which they rarely do, the lights taking effect mean they are playing against past ghosts, current shadows and an England team that's making the ball swing. It seems like there isn't a single gap on the infield that doesn't have a fielder covering it. The leg side has more bodies than blades of grass. All hands on knees, waiting for a mistake.

There is one hour, 15 overs and four wickets left to fall before Nuwan Pradeep has to bat.

Sri Lanka spend the start of the last hour against Liam Plunkett, safe in their mind that their captain looks made of granite and their keeper is still there. The ball is reversing, the odd one keeping low, it is dark and England believe they can do it. Every shot now seems near a fielder. Prasanna Jayawardene is leg glancing too close to leg slip. Jordan hits him on the arm guard as well. Then he almost gloves another, and then back to leg slip.

At the other end, Angelo Mathews is enjoying a bit of respite against Joe Root. In years to come, not even Root will believe he bowled an over in this hour.

Meanwhile, at the real end, Jayawardene misses a full and straight ball that must have been near invisible, as it seems Billy Bowden also missed it. It takes all of one replay to convince every single living entity that it's plumb.

It is now three wickets until England get to Nuwan Pradeep. The man who had never played with a leather cricket ball until he was in his 20s.

Nuwan Kulasekara is in. Remember that Champions Trophy match where he came in and smashed England everywhere like Sobers was operating his body? Well, if you saw him come out here, you would not have know it was the same guy. He has two modes: superfly-pimp-daddy smasher; and nervous tailender-in-the-way. He picked the wrong mode.

Anderson is bowling balls that seem to be swinging left, right, up, down and through parallel dimensions. Mathews comes down and suggest his man gets off strike. Kulasekara does but, in the next over, he seems to play the ball almost a full second late, down a line that never existed and his back foot kicks around randomly at the end for no good reason. He looks back at the pitch before he walks off, no one will ever know why. Stuart Broad is clearly not fit now but he takes Kulasekara's wicket at the end his captain sent him too.

Nuwan Pradeep now has two wickets between him and his destiny. One that started when he won a reality TV contest for bowling with a tennis ball faster than anyone else. When Chaminda Vaas took over the bowling group, he introduced Pradeep to chicken and beef to try get some body on the bowler.

Now out comes a man with a two-and-half line Wikipedia entry, uncoached action, often-untucked shirt, a homemade haircut reminiscent of a member of Poison and a Test bowling average of 72.83

Rangana Herath has spent the whole match doing the breast-stroke through treacle, such is his pace, but is now trying to get off strike when Usain Bolt wouldn't try to run.

Mathews flicks a ball off his hip where there is no one out, he walks down the wicket. Herath, now full of energy and speed, jogs past him but the ball goes all the way to the boundary before stopping just short, Mathews is mid-pitch waiting to see which end he should head too. It's that time when ends completely take over from runs.

Mathews has clearly decided on Anderson's end and doesn't take an obvious single off the fourth ball. Root wanders in to chat to Mathews. Root tries his best to annoy, distract or unsettle, Mathews. Root wanders back out not having caught Mathews' attention. Seconds later Alastair Cook is clutching at one around his groin and Mathews is gone. Sri Lanka have lost their most composed player in a crisis. The man who has saved them so many times before. The closest thing Sri Lanka has to a superhero is walking off the ground.

If you replaced Nuwan Pradeep with a puppy in the field, it wouldn't cause much more damage. While he is naturally athletic, quick and looks like he belongs, he seems to read the ball like its Baudelaire in translation. This was at its absolute worst when he seemed to misjudge a hook shot so badly it bounced almost 15 metres in from the boundary, but still behind him. There is now only one wicket between him and the middle.

Herath is now the senior batsman, a fact of pure fear for any Sri Lankan still hoping for a draw. Herath's batting is often quality entertainment, but not always quality. He took the Murali mantle seriously and also thought that swinging his bat wildly was the way to go. That's not really possible when Plunkett is trying to remove your throat and a ball flies at Herath and he does all he can do by missing it. The ball was like the spook in the horror film that turns out to be the cat.

Eventually Herath pushes one away from the fielders, Shaminda Eranga starts to set off but it's clear no real plan about running, or even which batsman will face which bowler, has been made. Herath just stands there, doesn't even seem to call. Root is in at silly point; it's always good to have someone like Root at silly point, not for the catch, but for the endless chat. Herath only gets a rest when the field and plans change.

His batting partner at the other end is no better. Eranga has a first-class hundred at the SSC, but doesn't everyone? Straight balls are defended with the sort of angled face that results in genius short-leg catches from straight balls. A nation tells him to play straight. But somehow he gets it past Sam Robson, the man crouched under the helmet.

There are six balls left. They have made a mess of the last hour but they have two wickets left. Or one, if you don't count Pradeep.

Broad is brought back, he looks injured but it's only one over, and no one else can real bowl. The fielders line up behind Herath, or near enough to smell his fear. Broad goes wide around the wicket and fires it in short at Herath, he jumps out of the way but the ball takes his glove, he walks while England appeal. No one checks Broad on what looked very close to a back-foot no ball (it's not). No one also notices, Herath included, that his glove was off his bat. That is until the many, many replays come up on the screen. He walked for a not out.

Now out comes a man with a two-and-half line Wikipedia entry, uncoached action, often-untucked shirt, a homemade haircut reminiscent of a member of the band Poison and a Test bowling average of 72.83. On the scoreboard they call him Fernando, everywhere else he's called Pradeep. He seems to have walked into this situation by accident. They don't even know his name and he's walking out to save his country against the oldest enemy.

Pradeep is marinated by Broad first ball with a bouncer that is only there to get him where he needs him. Pradeep is little more than a piece of meat in front of the stumps. Four balls left.

Next delivery is short of a length, quick and moves away, Pradeep should be given a medal for even getting that close. Three balls left.

He middles the next one, as much as he could ever middle a ball. Suddenly he's a batsman.

But the next one is too fast, too straight and it's not for the likes of him. He's instantly given out, but he reviews it before Paul Reiffel has fully given it. So does the Eranga at the non-striker's, and perhaps every single Sri Lankan alive. England are celebrating at deep point, TMS have already tweeted the victory. But somehow Reiffel missed the huge chunk of wood hitting the ball. Nuwan Pradeep has one ball to face.

In the first innings, Pradeep faced a short ball that he clearly didn't see. His face started to turn and his bat wafted in general self-defence, the ball smashed into his shoulder, this twisted and crashed his whole body that was now falling uncontrollably and ended with him smashing the stumps with his bat. It was embarrassing, viral and he would never ever live it down.

One more ball.

Nuwan Pradeep, or Fernando, the competition winner, leans forward with absolutely no certainty at all. It's quick and straight from Broad. The ball takes the edge, and goes straight for second slip, Chris Jordan, England's best slipper. It's quick and low, like a plane flying under radar, and Jordan picks it up as clean as you can in the slips.

On the half volley.

Eranga clutches at the air, Pradeep, still in the pose of the shot, looks around confused. He's not even sure if it has been caught. England are silent. He has done it. He saved them by inches. He survived the five toughest balls of his life.

Jarrod Kimber was 50% of the Two Chucks, and is the mind responsible for cricketwithballs.com

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ladycricfan on June 18, 2014, 10:49 GMT

    Lovely article. Last session made this test match a memorable one even though the flat pitch made the first four days a bit of a boring affair. Herath's walking tells the batsmen why they shouldn't walk. Exciting finish and a lovely article again.

  • on June 18, 2014, 7:04 GMT

    Precise and well narrated article. This is TEST match for you!!!!!!!!!!

  • RuwanFer on June 17, 2014, 23:16 GMT

    Excellent. Jarrod should write all CI articles, headlines, match reports and everything.

  • on June 17, 2014, 17:06 GMT

    Even though Wikipedia has published two and half line about Nuwan Pradeep, Jarrod Kimber manage to write full page article. what a excellent narration Jarrod...

  • on June 17, 2014, 15:43 GMT

    I admire Jarrod Kimber for his masterful writing of this article. He has skillfully recorded the character of Pradip.

  • on June 17, 2014, 14:44 GMT

    Great Test match, both teams played really well. However I think Srilanka made a huge mistake by playing negatively in the second innings and trying to look for the draw at the start of the 2nd innings. By not taking singles, rotating strike they allowed the English bowlers to settle into a good rhythm and bowl good line and lengths to take wickets. It was a good batting wicket and they should have just played their normal game and score on bad balls, rotate the strike and not just defend everything. If Srilanka did that they might have been able win the match.

    Srilanka also picked the best team for this match and I think they should go with the same team for the next match too, excluding the seriously under performing Dinesh Chandimal.

  • on June 17, 2014, 14:41 GMT

    thank you for making us fully realize the amount of pressure this young man had to deal with in those five balls, especially given what happened to him in the first innings. He had to not only save himself but the nation as well. The entire Sri Lankan team should have come out to give this young man a hug. I hope they will retain him for the Second Test (think he did not get any wickets) because he saved the Sri Lankan team. Thank you for this article.

  • on June 17, 2014, 14:01 GMT

    Test match: One for the ages..... Nice article by Jarrod K

  • TropicPleasure on June 17, 2014, 12:33 GMT

    Jarrod Kimber can write. This is an excellent narrative

  • Ellis on June 17, 2014, 11:59 GMT

    Prasanna Jayawardena deserves a lot of praise for his performance in this match. He batted with great courage in the second innings. A heroic effort. Well done, sir! Go well and a speedy recovery.

  • ladycricfan on June 18, 2014, 10:49 GMT

    Lovely article. Last session made this test match a memorable one even though the flat pitch made the first four days a bit of a boring affair. Herath's walking tells the batsmen why they shouldn't walk. Exciting finish and a lovely article again.

  • on June 18, 2014, 7:04 GMT

    Precise and well narrated article. This is TEST match for you!!!!!!!!!!

  • RuwanFer on June 17, 2014, 23:16 GMT

    Excellent. Jarrod should write all CI articles, headlines, match reports and everything.

  • on June 17, 2014, 17:06 GMT

    Even though Wikipedia has published two and half line about Nuwan Pradeep, Jarrod Kimber manage to write full page article. what a excellent narration Jarrod...

  • on June 17, 2014, 15:43 GMT

    I admire Jarrod Kimber for his masterful writing of this article. He has skillfully recorded the character of Pradip.

  • on June 17, 2014, 14:44 GMT

    Great Test match, both teams played really well. However I think Srilanka made a huge mistake by playing negatively in the second innings and trying to look for the draw at the start of the 2nd innings. By not taking singles, rotating strike they allowed the English bowlers to settle into a good rhythm and bowl good line and lengths to take wickets. It was a good batting wicket and they should have just played their normal game and score on bad balls, rotate the strike and not just defend everything. If Srilanka did that they might have been able win the match.

    Srilanka also picked the best team for this match and I think they should go with the same team for the next match too, excluding the seriously under performing Dinesh Chandimal.

  • on June 17, 2014, 14:41 GMT

    thank you for making us fully realize the amount of pressure this young man had to deal with in those five balls, especially given what happened to him in the first innings. He had to not only save himself but the nation as well. The entire Sri Lankan team should have come out to give this young man a hug. I hope they will retain him for the Second Test (think he did not get any wickets) because he saved the Sri Lankan team. Thank you for this article.

  • on June 17, 2014, 14:01 GMT

    Test match: One for the ages..... Nice article by Jarrod K

  • TropicPleasure on June 17, 2014, 12:33 GMT

    Jarrod Kimber can write. This is an excellent narrative

  • Ellis on June 17, 2014, 11:59 GMT

    Prasanna Jayawardena deserves a lot of praise for his performance in this match. He batted with great courage in the second innings. A heroic effort. Well done, sir! Go well and a speedy recovery.

  • on June 17, 2014, 10:44 GMT

    I got to watch every ball on the last day ...The last two hours were terrific. The next test is key for SL. If Prasanna is injured then Kausal to keep and get Priyanjan into the side. Both Tirumane and Karunaratne need to get 225 runs between themin their combined 4 innings as Mathews is not likely to get another hundred. Also SAVIOUR Nuwan Pradip to be replaced with Lakmal . At Leeds the ball will swing more. So both Kulasekara and Anderson will be key . SL should bat first and get 350 minimum to save the test...

  • on June 17, 2014, 10:30 GMT

    There can be nothing better than a Lords Test Match. Great fight by England in the last hour , and well battled Sri Lanka .

  • Sigismund on June 17, 2014, 10:01 GMT

    @9ST9: in a delightful self-referential comic twist, the insertion of that statement now means that he has a three-and-a-half-line Wikipedia entry.

  • LALITHKURUWITA on June 17, 2014, 9:28 GMT

    Pradeep is better as batsman batting 5 balls than a bowler taking 4 wickets.

  • 9ST9 on June 17, 2014, 9:25 GMT

    haha someone has actually edited the wikipedia article saying " He is widely known for having a 2 and a half line Wikipedia entry" with a reference to this page.

  • LALITHKURUWITA on June 17, 2014, 9:24 GMT

    I think Balance played for SL as Eng were late to declare as Cook was awaiting for Balance's century. Finally match got unbalanced for Poms as they ran out overs.

  • LALITHKURUWITA on June 17, 2014, 9:15 GMT

    End is exciting and SL survived. But the point is the misstate that Mathiews did. He should have bat first and I am pretty sure that SL would have won the match as SL got top class spinner in Herath for the final day. I think SL is a better team than England. I hope SL bat first in the next Test.

  • mm44 on June 17, 2014, 9:05 GMT

    WOW! excellent narrative of the final moments of the match!

  • St.John on June 17, 2014, 9:04 GMT

    Don't forget Prassana Jayawardene Jarrod. He battled it out for 64 balls with a broken finger. If it wasn't for him and Mathews (90 balls, 18 runs) protecting SL's notoriously weak tail Pradeep would have been cleaned up long before.

  • o-bomb on June 17, 2014, 8:28 GMT

    Terrific article this! I love an underdog story.

  • on June 17, 2014, 7:52 GMT

    @Salman Sadiq, it would have been all useless if Pradeep is out in the last over..... he survived for 5 important balls of his life..... it's easy to criticize the author....but he has done a amazing job in writing this article. I agree that Sanga & Mathews did a great job, but Pradeep is the star for SL team.

  • challagalla on June 17, 2014, 7:44 GMT

    I missed the last day totally. I just thought it would be another boring draw and never bothered to watch. I regret missing this very thrilling ending yet thanks to Mr. Kinder I did vicariously enjoy the enthralling finish. Thanks England, Sri lanka and Mr. Kinder for this very joyful match.

  • dns07 on June 17, 2014, 7:33 GMT

    Haha very nice article! We know Pradeep, he worked in a garment factory before winning the competition! Coming with lots of difficulties, but SL cricket didn't give up on this guy, he struggled with his Fitness issues, he never played hard ball until he was 20, but didn't give up, and now he has survived a Test match at Lords for Sri Lanka! He really is a 5-ball hero!

  • PricelessPak on June 17, 2014, 7:25 GMT

    very interesting read indeed, well done jarrod kimber.

  • on June 17, 2014, 7:00 GMT

    yep this is amasing.read it

  • on June 17, 2014, 6:51 GMT

    a great article --mixture of fiction writing and facts. it seems that i have just finished a well-written short story. well-done, keep on doing.

  • dunger.bob on June 17, 2014, 6:30 GMT

    Wow, good read. Everyone should read this.

  • on June 17, 2014, 5:40 GMT

    Good article, enjoyed reading it, as i did not watch the match. from Pakistan.

  • Praxis on June 17, 2014, 4:52 GMT

    It's not about finding the real hero of this match. Pradeep's just the unwilling protagonist to this whole drama. :) The author's idea was to write something about the defining moments of it, which he's done absolutely fine.

  • on June 17, 2014, 4:05 GMT

    LOL!! How come pradeep is the star? You could have given it to Sangakara or Mathews or even Ballanche. But how come pradeep? All he has done in this match is to take 4 wickets in the 1st innings and that too at a shameful 4 rpo. Get real guys.

  • on June 17, 2014, 3:59 GMT

    Wow man.. 1 of the best article i ever read here..:) :D

  • on June 17, 2014, 2:53 GMT

    Great article.Like Ian Fleming.But stlll great England bowlers could not go through SL chicken tailenders. But now I feel SL can win the 2nd test ,after drawing a test with almost 600 runs scored in 1st innings by home team.Well done SL team.Sri Lankana in England go and cheer them to win the game and the .series too. Again thumbs up for the nice article. Go the Sri Lankans. l

  • shockValue on June 17, 2014, 2:25 GMT

    Wow. This is like a movie script :D I thought it was over when herath walked out when he was NOT OUT.!!

  • on June 17, 2014, 2:07 GMT

    nice article pradeep / fernando he is a 5 ball hero .... a revenge for 2003 test http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/64056.html (Y)

  • on June 17, 2014, 2:04 GMT

    Cook should have given his bowlers 10 overs on Monday evening which would have meant two short burst with the new ball. I am certain England would have wrapped up the test by tea.

  • pandian_ikku on June 17, 2014, 1:39 GMT

    Thanks to review system Sri Lanka could draw the match. Otherwise the umpires could have won the match for England hours ago.

  • on June 17, 2014, 0:50 GMT

    SL saved the blushes , by the skin of the teeth! That strong skin happened to be the last pair! Including Pradeep, who had a good bowing performance too too!

  • on June 17, 2014, 0:20 GMT

    What a wonderfully entertaining and humorous article. Congratulations.

  • on June 16, 2014, 23:30 GMT

    brilliant!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! .. you just got another fan .. mr kimber.. kudos............

  • AI-US on June 16, 2014, 23:22 GMT

    Wow! That's gotta be the most entertaining news article I have read in a long time. I missed watching this epic of a test match! But I surely didn't miss watching the last five deliveries of this match after reading this piece

    Take a bow, Jarrod Kimber!

  • Sigismund on June 16, 2014, 21:58 GMT

    Super effort that again, Jarrod. A marvellous account of how it felt to watch that passage of play, beautifully enriched with all the musings on the context. A much neglected style of reporting - Blowers the sole surviving master.

  • on June 16, 2014, 20:53 GMT

    too good jarrod

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  • on June 16, 2014, 20:53 GMT

    too good jarrod

  • Sigismund on June 16, 2014, 21:58 GMT

    Super effort that again, Jarrod. A marvellous account of how it felt to watch that passage of play, beautifully enriched with all the musings on the context. A much neglected style of reporting - Blowers the sole surviving master.

  • AI-US on June 16, 2014, 23:22 GMT

    Wow! That's gotta be the most entertaining news article I have read in a long time. I missed watching this epic of a test match! But I surely didn't miss watching the last five deliveries of this match after reading this piece

    Take a bow, Jarrod Kimber!

  • on June 16, 2014, 23:30 GMT

    brilliant!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! .. you just got another fan .. mr kimber.. kudos............

  • on June 17, 2014, 0:20 GMT

    What a wonderfully entertaining and humorous article. Congratulations.

  • on June 17, 2014, 0:50 GMT

    SL saved the blushes , by the skin of the teeth! That strong skin happened to be the last pair! Including Pradeep, who had a good bowing performance too too!

  • pandian_ikku on June 17, 2014, 1:39 GMT

    Thanks to review system Sri Lanka could draw the match. Otherwise the umpires could have won the match for England hours ago.

  • on June 17, 2014, 2:04 GMT

    Cook should have given his bowlers 10 overs on Monday evening which would have meant two short burst with the new ball. I am certain England would have wrapped up the test by tea.

  • on June 17, 2014, 2:07 GMT

    nice article pradeep / fernando he is a 5 ball hero .... a revenge for 2003 test http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/64056.html (Y)

  • shockValue on June 17, 2014, 2:25 GMT

    Wow. This is like a movie script :D I thought it was over when herath walked out when he was NOT OUT.!!