Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 1st Test, Galle, 5th day August 10, 2014

Galle revels in perfect day

The ground slowly filled and the tension slowly built, even the clouds held off from bursting as Sri Lanka closed in on a memorable win
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A kite had taken flight above Galle Fort when play began on the final day. Blue, green, red and yellow, with a diamond head and a flared bottom, it sailed just above the clocktower, multi-coloured tassels streaming behind. July and August are kite-flying months in Sri Lanka, when wind comes strong off the sea.

Each different style of kite is named after an animal. This one was a maaluwa - a fish. Almost everyone on the island would have flown a maaluwa at some point. Every year, kids across the island wait for the months when kites take over corner shops, seasides and the sky.

Only about 200 fans had come for the early start, but the kite looked over the action when Shaminda Eranga loped in to deliver his first ball of the morning. The Galle Stadium may be the most accessible ground in cricket. Often those wandering by on the pavement around the ground stop beneath a tree to take in a few overs, then return to their day.

Others walk in to the stadium when they have a break at work. The ground has been free to enter for about two years, so the crowd has learned to oscillate with the cricket. It had been at its peak, in the first four days, when Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara were batting together. They came in droves to watch Sangakkara pass 200 too, then hurried back to their shops, buses and roadside stands.

The locals have also seen plenty of Galle pitches: the dustbowls that sang for Murali, and the dry tracks that reverse-swung for Lasith Malinga and Chaminda Vaas. They knew a result was unlikely on Sunday on a track that had barely registered bowlers' footmarks by the fifth day. They wanted a little magic from their team before they would brave the heat.

After Murali, Rangana Herath had made Galle sing for him too but, in 2014, his fingers have lacked for a bit of extra rip in Tests. Saddled with an extraordinary workload as well, he was visibly drained on the fifth day of Sri Lanka's last Test, at the SSC, when he was expected to lead the victory charge only for South Africa to hold on. At Headingley, he removed only lower-order batsmen, as Sri Lanka strove for 90.3 overs on the final day.

By the force of will of 5000 Sri Lankans and a captain who admitted he was praying, the colossal black cloud that hung over the stadium did not loose a drop until seconds after the winning run was struck

Herath has now bowled 560 overs since December 31, 2013 but nothing, not fatigue, not bad knees or tired arms could prevent him on this day. He had seemed flat since lunch on day one, but suddenly he was beating both edges of the bat. Some slid on. Others stopped and turned. Smelling blood, Herath quickly was moving around on his crease, encouraging the batsmen to do the same. When he dressed a straight one up as a big turner and sneaked it through Younis Khan's defence, Sri Lanka came alive, knowing they now stood a chance. Within minutes the ground was fuller. Galle had begun to believe as well.

As the afternoon wore on, the party started to come together, the kite still flying high above. Baila boomed out of the speakers between overs. Groups of kids in the stands with a dhol sang their Sinhala and Tamil tunes in between. When the crowd's voice grew loud, Herath's spin became more vicious.

On so many days this year, he has been as accurate as he ever was, but the bite had deserted him. Here, the killer ball was humming along with the baila. Azhar Ali got a few straight ones, then one spun hard, that teased him forward then dived and jived to take the outside edge. Asad Shafiq got a big rippers and then was nailed by the arm ball. Mohammad Talha barely had a chance when one spat to take his outside edge.

"This is not a kind of pitch that is bowler friendly," Herath said, "but I realised that on the fifth day, there was something in it for the spinners. We had a lot of faith.

"When you are bowling well, you can take wickets against any country, but against Pakistan, I have over 70 wickets. Maybe I have a psychological effect on them, having bowled Sri Lanka to many victories over them."

Barely a cup of coffee would have been sold by the main bus stand in Galle, as the last session wound on. Shops were boarded up. Workplaces abandoned. Kids had stopped play to flood the grass banks, which were jammed before Sri Lanka began their second innings. The hundreds who couldn't find space in the ground climbed up on the ramparts of the Fort.

Sri Lanka would have hoped Jayawardene would hit the winning runs, that he would give Galle one final late-as-sin cut, a swivel pull or a breezy cover drive. But not everything happens to plan in Sri Lanka. After the stadium had rose to applaud him when he left this field for the final time, Angelo Mathews and Kithuruwan Vithanage sent fresh waves of energy through the stands and across the top of the fort, as they hooked Sri Lanka to the brink. By the force of will of 5000 Sri Lankans below, and a captain who admitted he was praying, the colossal black cloud that hung over the stadium did not loose a drop until seconds after the winning run was struck. As if it had been holding it all in for a Sri Lanka win, the rain came down in a hurry.

The crowd danced on the banks as the rains fell, and the groundsmen joined them from just outside the rope. The revelry soon started to spill into town, and then the sodden kite finally began to sink.

It had seen it all from above. Sunday had been a day of resurgence, a day of luck, a day to party and a day to hope. From morning until dusk, the kite had been there, all along, watching the perfect Sri Lankan day unfold.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on August 11, 2014, 2:11 GMT

    Andrew... u took me to Galle literally with ur post today. Being one of the Cricket Loving son of Galle, im really appriciate the way u illustrated the scenario at Galle this Sunday Evening.

    i live thousands of miles away from home....but have not had good sleep during last 5days...bcs watching Cricket. Its very true, as a youngster and a teenager we used to go to "Galle Esplanade" to watch "Mahinda-Richmond" in 80's. After Cricket we never failed to go to "Pavillion Hotel" for a Plain Tea or "KLH CreamHouse" for an ice Cream.

    But i must tell u....that your post brought tears into my eyes. Bcs....i walked on the streets near Galle BusStand in my mind by reading your magnificent writings.

    No Cricket are playing in this part of the world.....but i really enjoy reading your posts regurlarly...

    Well done brother.... Ples write more about our Cricketing Culture and the normal life of average Cricket loving public of SL. That will make us proud to talk more about our motherland SL

  • sura_kaluarachchi on August 12, 2014, 10:41 GMT

    Andrew, I'm a big fan of the cricket by deep heart, also reading each & every articles on the cricinfo. but your simply amazing heart touching articles are very very interested to read. Well done bro!!! patta......

  • Dulanz on August 12, 2014, 9:35 GMT

    Thanx Andrew. Another classic article. It's like icing on cake.

  • on August 12, 2014, 8:24 GMT

    Rarely do we find fairly tales in cricket. This test match was one of them. And though I didn't watch even a single ball of the game, this write-up of yours made me feel what would have happened. Brilliantly written!

  • on August 12, 2014, 7:29 GMT

    Wow!!! Amazing writing, really brought tears in to my eyes. As person mentioned here, i also couldn't wait to read Andrew's article regarding this great match. Feeling really proud about you Andrew as a Srilankan as we have our say here. All the very best!!!!

  • jeevi_p on August 11, 2014, 17:37 GMT

    Andrew, you are simply amazing! I was watching the final hours of the play on a disastrous live stream as i live in an european country where cricket is absent. I was eagerly waiting to read your article after the thrilling sl win and this is such an indulgence to read.. While reading I really felt like i was standing on one of those grass banks. I just love your articles. Keep it up!

  • on August 11, 2014, 14:39 GMT

    Great article captures the spirit of the place my father is from Galle and the stadium is very emotional for me you capture that emotion so well!

  • on August 11, 2014, 14:33 GMT

    God Damn Andrew...u r a One Hell of a Writer...keep up the Good Work

  • Archiecook on August 11, 2014, 12:30 GMT

    Beautiful article. Brings tears and emotions all over. Sri lankans are a good bunch and should market their humour positively in correct manner. Surprisingly wonderful end result to the match...

  • Lassie.Perera on August 11, 2014, 11:31 GMT

    Andrew, you are simply awesome. Now cricinfo is a better place, bcs you are there.

  • on August 11, 2014, 2:11 GMT

    Andrew... u took me to Galle literally with ur post today. Being one of the Cricket Loving son of Galle, im really appriciate the way u illustrated the scenario at Galle this Sunday Evening.

    i live thousands of miles away from home....but have not had good sleep during last 5days...bcs watching Cricket. Its very true, as a youngster and a teenager we used to go to "Galle Esplanade" to watch "Mahinda-Richmond" in 80's. After Cricket we never failed to go to "Pavillion Hotel" for a Plain Tea or "KLH CreamHouse" for an ice Cream.

    But i must tell u....that your post brought tears into my eyes. Bcs....i walked on the streets near Galle BusStand in my mind by reading your magnificent writings.

    No Cricket are playing in this part of the world.....but i really enjoy reading your posts regurlarly...

    Well done brother.... Ples write more about our Cricketing Culture and the normal life of average Cricket loving public of SL. That will make us proud to talk more about our motherland SL

  • sura_kaluarachchi on August 12, 2014, 10:41 GMT

    Andrew, I'm a big fan of the cricket by deep heart, also reading each & every articles on the cricinfo. but your simply amazing heart touching articles are very very interested to read. Well done bro!!! patta......

  • Dulanz on August 12, 2014, 9:35 GMT

    Thanx Andrew. Another classic article. It's like icing on cake.

  • on August 12, 2014, 8:24 GMT

    Rarely do we find fairly tales in cricket. This test match was one of them. And though I didn't watch even a single ball of the game, this write-up of yours made me feel what would have happened. Brilliantly written!

  • on August 12, 2014, 7:29 GMT

    Wow!!! Amazing writing, really brought tears in to my eyes. As person mentioned here, i also couldn't wait to read Andrew's article regarding this great match. Feeling really proud about you Andrew as a Srilankan as we have our say here. All the very best!!!!

  • jeevi_p on August 11, 2014, 17:37 GMT

    Andrew, you are simply amazing! I was watching the final hours of the play on a disastrous live stream as i live in an european country where cricket is absent. I was eagerly waiting to read your article after the thrilling sl win and this is such an indulgence to read.. While reading I really felt like i was standing on one of those grass banks. I just love your articles. Keep it up!

  • on August 11, 2014, 14:39 GMT

    Great article captures the spirit of the place my father is from Galle and the stadium is very emotional for me you capture that emotion so well!

  • on August 11, 2014, 14:33 GMT

    God Damn Andrew...u r a One Hell of a Writer...keep up the Good Work

  • Archiecook on August 11, 2014, 12:30 GMT

    Beautiful article. Brings tears and emotions all over. Sri lankans are a good bunch and should market their humour positively in correct manner. Surprisingly wonderful end result to the match...

  • Lassie.Perera on August 11, 2014, 11:31 GMT

    Andrew, you are simply awesome. Now cricinfo is a better place, bcs you are there.

  • CricketPissek on August 11, 2014, 10:37 GMT

    When I was growing up in the 90s, I used to dream of Sri Lanka one day having a bowler who could bowl fast yorkers. Then Malinga appeared. Similarly, in the 00s, I used to dream of a Sri Lankan journalist who could articulate the thoughts of a nation, and Andrew Fidel Fernando appears! For too long were we Lankans frustrated with the lack of an authentic voice on Cricinfo, what we got with your articles FAR EXCEEDS what we expected. You are a true poet. Keep at it, and you could be the 21st century John Arlott. #theBoysPlayedWell

  • on August 11, 2014, 10:19 GMT

    Good Article. It 's remided my good old days at Galle.

  • on August 11, 2014, 9:33 GMT

    Brilliant article Andrew. Loved every bit of it!!! It sure was a fairy tale ending to a wonderful game of cricket...

  • RoshJ on August 11, 2014, 8:28 GMT

    Fantastic Andrew...please keep writing!

  • on August 11, 2014, 6:51 GMT

    I am in USA on vacation and missed most of the action with the time difference. But now I feel like I was in Galle, just like the kite :)

  • venkatesh018 on August 11, 2014, 6:18 GMT

    The jampacked Galle Stadium was a rare, wonderful sight as the thrilling chase reached its close amidst the darkening arena. It was a sight to behold !

  • gularan on August 11, 2014, 5:49 GMT

    Hi Andrew, Nice one old chap ,You are the Peter Rowbuck ala Sri lankan style. Keep the style going mate and give us the descriptions with the history and the ambience all mixed together in a nice sambol, so that we who are domiciled overseas can at least visit these locations in our minds eye and reminisce about the times that we have been there in the past. Looking forward to your pieces on the 2nd test at the SSC. Take us round the ground , near the swimming pool and the surroundings etc and let it be a ripper especially as this will be MJ's last test appearance.

  • on August 11, 2014, 4:23 GMT

    What an awesome win! We had all set to play some cricket on the street Sri Lankan style when our boys got the chance to chase down 99 in 20 odd overs... With the cloud, lightning in the background our cricket plans were put on hold as we watched the chase .. nail biting as ever

    What a write Andrew, its becoming one my favourite pass times now.. looking forward to a master piece from AFF everytime Sri Lanka takes on to the cricket field!!! Thanks Sir!!!

  • Cricketcomment on August 11, 2014, 4:21 GMT

    Galle is an ambionce I love being a son of Galle I am really feeling the way Andrew has written the article I fully agree with Channa the life we lived back then is resurrected by this article.

  • ghtvnath on August 11, 2014, 4:08 GMT

    does anyone do what Andrew Fernando does? Write in English and make us feel Sri Lankan to the core.

  • 9ST9 on August 11, 2014, 3:25 GMT

    This is brilliant. The local references make it even more interesting to read. Sri Lanka over the years produced world-class cricketers. Now they have produced a world class cricket writer. Hats off to Andrew.

  • MelbourneMiracle on August 11, 2014, 3:16 GMT

    "and a captain who admitted he was praying" ...it's not easy to defeat a captain who prays...beautiful article Andrew! Keep up your good work...

  • nickexplore on August 11, 2014, 2:17 GMT

    A masterpiece from AFF that truly captures the thrilling atmosphere at the Galle ground and the essence of what it is to be a Sri Lankan cricket lover.This was an incredible SL team victory, highlighted by the heroics of Sangakkara and Herath, and the inspiring leadership of Mathews.

  • on August 11, 2014, 2:13 GMT

    Well said Andrew.

  • on August 10, 2014, 21:34 GMT

    Hi Andrew, i dnt know frm where u find the words or a themeto express typical Sri Lankan culture and atmosphere while u are writing an artical. Our team always make us proud by winning the matxhes from nowhere. but Mr. Andrew Im a fan of u b'coz u amplify that feeling with ur awesome words. if i say in typical Sinhala word .. . . " patta"

  • on August 10, 2014, 19:36 GMT

    Andrew ayya.. I just come here on espncricinfo only to read your Awesome Articles.. And I'll love to read many more.. Just love the way you Write.. ^_^

  • amuni12 on August 10, 2014, 19:34 GMT

    Feel sorry for PK fans. South Africans could holed out but not Pakistanis. SA played better cricket in SL, Hope PK will give a better fight at the next match in Colombo. Great captaincy by AM. Upul Thranga has a lot of talents and may be better suited in middle order. Well done mighty lions!

  • on August 10, 2014, 19:04 GMT

    Eloquantly written as always

  • Herath-UK on August 10, 2014, 19:02 GMT

    A superb win infact.Galle got a day to revel when Kandy has its final Randoli Perehera today with people thronging all over the place.

  • KingOwl on August 10, 2014, 18:55 GMT

    "It had seen it all from above. Sunday had been a day of resurgence, a day of luck, a day to party and a day to hope. From morning until dusk, the kite had been there, all along, watching the perfect Sri Lankan day unfold." Amazing writing. I got a tear in my eye. Wish I could be in SL. But at least, we follow not just the results but also that 'Sri Lankan feeling' of watching cricket, courtesy of Andrew, from afar.

  • Liyan_SLCT on August 10, 2014, 18:51 GMT

    This is an Amazing written skill by Andrew.. U r genious.. U like Sangakkara. The way he batting now u r writting articles like a poem.... Great work.. Go ahead.. Whole nation is with this SL Magicians... Cheerss SL Lions....

  • on August 10, 2014, 18:28 GMT

    wow great written andrew fernando..what a day for srilankan and mahela

  • Farce-Follower on August 10, 2014, 18:09 GMT

    Superbly written, Andrew Fernando. I felt like I was in Galle when I read it.

  • on August 10, 2014, 18:06 GMT

    This is an awesome article once again Andrew. Every match i am so eager to read your articles. Brilliant. Plain brilliant.

  • on August 10, 2014, 17:37 GMT

    Once again Andrew, you hit the nail on the head, awesomely written.

  • SLSup on August 10, 2014, 17:37 GMT

    Andrew Fernando has a special talent for writing.

  • SLSup on August 10, 2014, 17:37 GMT

    Andrew Fernando has a special talent for writing.

  • on August 10, 2014, 17:37 GMT

    Once again Andrew, you hit the nail on the head, awesomely written.

  • on August 10, 2014, 18:06 GMT

    This is an awesome article once again Andrew. Every match i am so eager to read your articles. Brilliant. Plain brilliant.

  • Farce-Follower on August 10, 2014, 18:09 GMT

    Superbly written, Andrew Fernando. I felt like I was in Galle when I read it.

  • on August 10, 2014, 18:28 GMT

    wow great written andrew fernando..what a day for srilankan and mahela

  • Liyan_SLCT on August 10, 2014, 18:51 GMT

    This is an Amazing written skill by Andrew.. U r genious.. U like Sangakkara. The way he batting now u r writting articles like a poem.... Great work.. Go ahead.. Whole nation is with this SL Magicians... Cheerss SL Lions....

  • KingOwl on August 10, 2014, 18:55 GMT

    "It had seen it all from above. Sunday had been a day of resurgence, a day of luck, a day to party and a day to hope. From morning until dusk, the kite had been there, all along, watching the perfect Sri Lankan day unfold." Amazing writing. I got a tear in my eye. Wish I could be in SL. But at least, we follow not just the results but also that 'Sri Lankan feeling' of watching cricket, courtesy of Andrew, from afar.

  • Herath-UK on August 10, 2014, 19:02 GMT

    A superb win infact.Galle got a day to revel when Kandy has its final Randoli Perehera today with people thronging all over the place.

  • on August 10, 2014, 19:04 GMT

    Eloquantly written as always

  • amuni12 on August 10, 2014, 19:34 GMT

    Feel sorry for PK fans. South Africans could holed out but not Pakistanis. SA played better cricket in SL, Hope PK will give a better fight at the next match in Colombo. Great captaincy by AM. Upul Thranga has a lot of talents and may be better suited in middle order. Well done mighty lions!