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Toss: England. Test debut: A. M. De Silva.
Sri Lanka comprehensively outplayed England and thoroughly deserved their first win against them in five Tests and their fourth in the 43 they had contested since attaining Test status 11 years previously. England joined India, Pakistan and New Zealand on the list of Sri Lankan conquests.
Although there were individual performances of some merit from England, collectively this was another bad display. The tourists once again failed to produce the standard of performance required to compete with technically skilled and highly motivated opposition in a hostile environment. In, Calcutta the climatic peculiarity that had caused so much consternation was smog; here it was the steamy heat. The shirts of the England players were soaked in perspiration throughout the match as temperatures soared into the high 90s and the humidity became quite exhausting. It was hard to disagree with team manager Fletcher's assertion, supported by the fact that England's highest scorers were born in Southern Africa, that: "It's very nearly too hot here for Europeans to play cricket."
There were also further murmurings regarding the impartiality of Sri Lankan umpiring and the bowling action of Sri Lankan off-spinners Warnaweera and Muralitharan. But, overall, England had nothing and no one to blame but themselves. They had been given a substantial platform by Smith, who scored his first century as a Test opener. In partnerships of 112 with Hick and 122 with Stewart he played the anchor role to perfection. His first Test hundred overseas, and his eighth in all, lasted seven and a half hours, a tribute to his stamina as well as his skill. But after he was dismissed at 316 for four the innings soon folded: the last seven wickets fell for 64 runs.
The Sri Lankan batting lived up to its high reputation against some of England's best bowling on the entire tour, particularly from Lewis and Tufnell. De Silva and Ranatunga, their two senior batsmen, displayed the determination to build long innings as well as the exquisite wristy strokeplay so widely admired in world cricket. But the decline of the innings from 330 for three to 376 for eight indicated a brittleness in the lower order to match England's until the fourth morning of the match. England needed almost two hours to take the wickets of two tailenders who enabled Tillekeratne to finish unbeaten on 93 and build a first-innings lead of 89.
England's batting self-destructed again. Against some penetrative off-spin from Warnaweera, they slumped initially to 96 for five. Atherton completed a miserable tour by adding two to his first-innings 13 to finish with a Test average for the tour of 15.75, while Gatting, Smith and Hick all got out when well set through careless shots. Lewis and Emburey made sure the innings achieved a modicum of respectability at 228 all out on the final morning.
Their efforts might have led to greater things had Sri Lanka, struggling at 61 for four with 79 still required to win, performed as they had done against Australia on the same ground in August 1992. Then they needed 181 to win, reached 127 for two and lost. This time, however, in front of substantially the biggest crowd of the match - some 10,000 who arrived to witness the historic moment of victory - there was to be no repetition. The England bowlers once more found Tillekeratne impossible to get out. Tufnell and Emburey bowled well in tandem, but Tillekeratne had their measure, cutting hard at anything fractionally short and dancing down the wicket if the opportunity to drive presented itself. At the other end, Ranatunga was batting as though his life depended on it. For him, victory meant too much to be allowed to slip through his grasp. His obvious sadness when he was caught with only four runs needed soon disappeared as Jayasuriya pulled Tufnell's next ball for six.
Man of the Match: H. P. Tillekeratne.
close of play: First day, England 245-3 (R. A. Smith 91 *, A. J. Stewart 26*); Second day, Sri Lanka 140-1 (U. C. Hathurusinghe 53*, A. P. Gurusinha 12*); Third day, Sri Lanka 408-8 (H. P. Tillekeratne 51*, M. Muralitharan 7*); Fourth day, England 226-9 (J. E. Emburey 57*, D. E. Malcolm 8*).