Sri Lanka v England, 1st Test, Galle, 4th day March 29, 2012

Herath takes 12 in Sri Lanka's victory


Sri Lanka 318 (M Jayawardene 180, Anderson 5-72) and 214 (P Jayawardene 61*, Swann 6-82) beat England 193 (Bell 52, Herath 6-74) and 264 (Trott 112, Herath 6-97, Randiv 4-74) by 75 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Sri Lanka won their first home Test since the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan in July 2010 as they completed a 75-run victory over England in Galle. Sri Lanka had, until this game, played 17 Tests and won just one since Murali's retirement as the leading Test wicket-taker.

Having set England a mammoth 340 to win, Sri Lanka endured a few nervous moments as Jonathan Trott, in particular, batted with great fortitude. In the end, though, the target was too great and Sri Lanka held their nerve.

It was another spinner, Rangana Herath, who led Sri Lanka's victory charge; he took 12 wickets in the match and expertly exploited a turning surface and England's deficiencies against spin bowling.

It might be tempting, then, to claim that Sri Lanka have discovered a replacement for Murali. In truth, Sri Lanka are learning new ways to win. With Murali in the side, life was relatively easy; his excellence allowed Sri Lanka to mask other weaknesses. Those days have gone and may never return.

The Sri Lanka team still contains match-winners, though. Mahela Jayawardene's first-innings century - a magnificent innings - provided a welcome reminder of his genius, while Kumar Sangakkara remains one of the finest batsmen in world cricket.

Generally, however, they are now a team that require contributions from every individual.

Herath is a perfect example. He is a skilled performer, certainly. He bowls with pleasing flight, has all the traditional variations and has excellent control. His second-innings performance was his ninth five-wicket haul and left him the fifth Sri Lanka bowler to claim ten wickets in a Test.

But he is no Murali. Only three years ago he was plying his trade as a journeymen pro - and with modest success - in the North Staffordshire and South Cheshire League, while a spell as overseas player with Hampshire produced just ten first-class wickets at an average of 46.30.

In these conditions, however, he is a tough proposition. And, with the support of Suraj Ranjiv and two underrated seamers, he was able to apply pressure on a batting line-up lacking competence and confidence.

Herath was also supported by some outstanding fielding. The wicketkeeper, Prasanna Jayawardene, enjoyed an excellent came with bat and gloves. But, in a match that took many twists and turns, perhaps the defining moment came when Lahiru Thirimanne clung on to a desperately tough chance at short leg to end a fifth-wicket partnership that looked as if it could take England to a record-breaking victory.

Matt Prior and Trott added 81 runs. With the field pushed back, the pair were able to rotate the strike and accumulate without undue risk.

Then, however, Prior connected well with a sweep only to see Thirimanne, anticipating the path of the ball as he saw the batsman shape for the shot, react brilliantly to hold on after it struck him on the body. The dismissal precipitated a dramatic collapse as England lost their last six wickets for only 31 runs.

Defeat was cruel reward for Trott. Trott's century, a wonderful example of patience, technique and concentration, would, in many circumstances, have deserved to win a Test. As it was, however, he was unable to compensate for the failure of his colleagues.

Trott's seventh Test century sustained England's hopes of a remarkable win until the brink of tea but his dismissal, caught at leg slip as he attempted to turn an off break into the leg side, ended any realistic hopes the tourists may have had.

On the final day Trott helplessly watched on as Kevin Pietersen - now averaging just 12.50 on England's winter tours - was beaten in the flight and chipped to midwicket and Ian Bell missed a premeditated sweep. Samit Patel, trying to give himself room and hit through the off side, was another man to be superbly caught at the second attempt by Tillakaratne Dilshan at short extra cover, before Graeme Swann, attempting an ugly sweep, was leg before the two left-hand tailenders were soon mopped up by Randiv's off-spin.

The result sentenced England to their fourth successive Test defeat. For the No.1 rated team who, only a few months ago, were talking about setting a legacy, that is an acute embarrassment.

They need not look too far to see where they want wrong. They simply made too many mistakes. In dropping Mahela Jayawardene four times during the course of his match-defining century they were profligate beyond repair. Stuart Broad's no-ball to Prasanna Jayawardene - and the manner in which Sri Lanka's last two wickets were able to eke out more than 50 runs in each innings (65 in the first and 87 in the second) - were also costly.

Most pertinently, though, England's batsmen continue to struggle against spin bowling. To be bowled out within 47 overs on a blameless second day track was always likely to prove decisive. Andrew Strauss, Pietersen and Bell (despite his half-century in the first innings) are all in need of runs in Test cricket and it was telling that, even in their second innings, when England batted so much better, they lost all ten of their wickets to spin.

Perhaps, though, they can take just a little encouragement from certain aspects of this performance. England have never made more than 332 to win in the fourth innings of a Test but, set 340 here, there were moments when they threatened to go close. Yes, they fell short, but they at least showed some of the fight and fibre that was missing in the UAE.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on April 1, 2012, 7:34 GMT

    @Dravid_Gravitas - You're right. I think also players and ex players when asked a direct question like "Can you set a benchmark/legacy like WI or Oz?" are going to say yes aren't they? If they say no then they're lacking ambition. Can and Will are 2 different words. I think even many pundits were saying things are in place for domination which isn't the same as "We will dominate" . I think you'll find most regular Eng posters on here have only ever bigged up our previous form in response to those who are trying to slate us at every point. Obviously you get some that just boast and gloat at every turn but you usually find they disappear when the chips are down.

  • Srinivas on March 31, 2012, 20:17 GMT

    @JG, thanks for quoting me. And also, please note what George Dobell said in the article - "The result sentenced England to their fourth successive Test defeat. For the No.1 rated team who, only a few months ago, were talking about setting a legacy, that is an acute embarrassment". I'm really not sure who are those English players in the team who were talking about setting a legacy. The players were always humble enough to understand and acknowledge the hardwork that goes into winning their games. If I remember correctly, it was Botham and other SkySports crew that were making such tall claims, not the English team or any of its members.

  • John on March 31, 2012, 18:26 GMT

    @Dravid_Gravitas on (March 31 2012, 16:41 PM GMT) I'm a bit past it to rock to be honest but thanks for the comms. I hate to stereotype cricket fans from a country and just wish that some of your fellow fans would let it go. Constructive comms from any country are always good to read even if I don't always agree with them. I do try to defend team England when I feel people write nonsense/untruths etc and will constructively argue with many (inc my fellow English fans) if I feel their suggestions are wrong for team England etc. But I am also one of our biggest critics. It's what it's all about. Occasionally I'll go on other country's threads but will always try to post an honest assessment and why whether it be a compliment or a criticism.

  • Srinivas on March 31, 2012, 16:41 GMT

    @JG, IndnCrktfan, satish619chandar, Nutcutlet and Cpt.Meanster, you dudes rock. Pleasure to read your comments.

  • John on March 31, 2012, 12:56 GMT

    Congratulations to Sri Lanka, this win always looked likely after Mahela's great innings on days one and two. England will be very disappointed not to have batted better in the first innings and to have let Prasanna and the tail get so many runs in the second. Too many batsmen are still choosing the wrong shots to play- sweeping balls on the stumps and going back when they should be forward. Still, a very enjoyable and tense test to watch.

  • John on March 31, 2012, 12:36 GMT

    @maddy20- I'm not sure what these people said and re Bres - if he said something , you don't know what might have been said to him by an Indian player which may have led him to say something... Regardless of this and whatever else might have been said by Eng fans after beating India in Eng , India beat Eng in the OD series 5-0 and your countrymen had a field day with your gloating comms on these boards. OK so that way payback if you want to be small minded , but we're still getting numerous nasty comms when we're not even playing you. I've looked at a few Indian threads when Ind were being thrashed by Oz or were knocked out of the 2 OD comps and even posted stuff on the odd one but constructive criticism and I've not seen these comms from Eng fans on your threads - certainly not the volume of comms. It's become so obsessive that I'm sure many Ind fans care more about Eng losing than Ind winning. How sad is that?

  • John on March 31, 2012, 12:36 GMT

    @maddy20 on (March 30 2012, 11:53 AM GMT) - I'm not even an Oz fan but your comms are becoming obsessive. Bangladesh are a challenge for anyone in the OD/T20 games as they proved in the Asia cup but they are still very green as far as tests are concerned. Aus beat SL in SL just like Pak beat Eng in UAE , India beat Eng in ODIs in India and Eng beat Ind in Eng in tests - we can all come up with transitional phase , injuries excuses etc but not all of us do. And drawing a series 2-2 - is that being whipped? Please publish this time

  • John on March 31, 2012, 12:35 GMT

    @Maddy20 - It seems that I am unable to respond to your comms but I'll try once more.Re Bres and what he allegedly said , if he did say this it's not great but there was probably plenty being aimed at him at points pre/during series.Isn't this "Payback" thing getting a little obsessive? I mean OK you have a go at us when you beat us in the ODIs but is that not enough.On occs when I have been on Indian threads I don't see all these English fans posting ill comms like we're still getting on our threads from Indian fans and it's not like India have been in better form than Eng. When we played Pak we hardly recd any such comms from them when they beat us and even on these SL threads we are getting more from the Ind fans than the victors themselves.Why not learn from people like your fellow country man satish619chandar who manages to write constructive criticism on our threads.BTW Aus being whipped by WI - Is that the 2-2 thrashing you're on about?

  • Dummy4 on March 31, 2012, 9:50 GMT

    being a pakistani i congragulate to my SL fallows and am expecting gain a white wash for england,and do remember my SL friends now its due on you gys nothing less than white wash is acceptable.

  • John on March 31, 2012, 8:50 GMT

    @satish619chandar Absolutely fair play to you for not jumping on the snipewagon. I do feel that many of your fellow country folk have developed a real obsession where they actually care more about England losing than their own team winning. I might not agree with all your views but I fully respect you as a person for not becoming one of the sheep. I know we have probably had some snipers during the Eng/India encounters but when I have been on Indian threads (sometimes I have posted criticism (constructive mind) , I have not seen the ill comms which we are still receiving on threads where team India are not involved - there have certainly not been the quantity.

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