First Test Match

Sri Lanka v England, 2000-01

Tanya Aldred

At Galle, February 22, 23, 24, 25, 26. Sri Lanka won by an innings and 28 runs. Toss: Sri Lanka.
In a steaming cauldron of bad temper, Sri Lanka winkled out a browbeaten England to win by an innings soon after lunch on the final day. The game will be remembered for the nonhomie between the teams, incompetent umpiring and a broken window in the English dressing-room; referee Hanumant Singh handed down penalties to five players afterwards. It was a sad reflection on a match that coincided with the death of Sir Donald Bradman. Sad too because, between the lines, lurked achievement from Trescothick, dogged persistence from Atapattu, perseverance from England's seam attack and eight wickets for Jayasuriya.

England were fresh(ish) from their series-winning victory ten weeks earlier at Karachi, but Hussain was realistic. "We're a mediocre side that's improved over the last year," he deadpanned, but his luck remained mediocre come the toss: he lost for the eighth time in nine Tests. On the widely predicted dustbowl, there was only one decision for Jayasuriya, especially as Muralitharan, who had strained his groin in New Zealand, was passed fit. England made a single change from Karachi, with Croft coming in for the abandoned Salisbury.

The initial danger seemed to come from Jayasuriya, who blasted off with three peerless fours in 20 minutes. But after he fell, suckered by Gough and nimbly caught by White at gully, the real enemy revealed her hand. The clouds lifted and the heat kicked in, intense, sticky, wearing heat which only intensified. By the end of the day, the bowlers - despite wearing cravats impregnated with ice - had each lost more than three kilograms. Atapattu didn't make it any easier: with judicious stroke after judicious stroke he ground England down. The entertainment came largely from 23-year-old batsman-keeper Sangakkara and from de Silva, who sparkled at the other end.

Atapattu soldiered on through the second morning and afternoon, first adding 230 with de Silva, then 111 with the energetic Jayawardene. White and Gough, drained but resourceful, resorted to off-cutters. Eventually, Atapattu became the ninth batsman to hit four Test double-hundreds, completing 200 in 674 minutes, the third-slowest double-century in Tests after fellow-Sri Lankan Brendon Kuruppu (777 minutes against New Zealand in 1986-87) and Gary Kirsten (741 minutes for South Africa against England in 1999-2000); only Kuruppu had taken more balls to reach the landmark, with 548 to Atapattu's 529. His entire vigil lasted 11 hours 21 minutes and 534 balls, including 18 fours. Shortly afterwards, Atherton and Trescothick trekked out to face the new ball, taken by an irrepressibly grinning Muralitharan and watched by a bevy of close fielders.

It was only Trescothick's seventh Test, but he played with the ease of a man with deep reservoirs of confidence. He was beaten by Murali more than once, but he just carried on, sweeping him when he could - he was the one English batsman to hit him over the boundary - and, to the admiration of the Sri Lankans, getting right forward to smother the spin. His first Test century was only his eighth in first-class cricket, and his opening partner, Atherton, said "he made the rest of us look like fools". England's five other specialist batsmen managed just 67, though Stewart, lbw to a ball that pitched outside leg stump, and Hick, caught by Sangakkara off one he never hit, were unlucky. The visibly disgruntled Hick later received a suspended one-match ban. Trescothick fell in the second over of the fourth day, and was back at the crease barely 45 minutes later after England had lost five for 47, disorientated by sharp Sri Lankan fielding, bowling and squawking.

The heavy roller looked as if it might have made batting a little easier as Atherton and Trescothick fought their way to a century opening stand - England's first against Sri Lanka. But Trescothick's concentration lapsed at last after tea and, 18 minutes later, Hussain's unerring ability to attract controversial decisions condemned him to another single-figure score. When Atherton was out early on the final day, to a catch that even in slow-motion replay was dubious, England seemed to lose confidence in themselves and faith in the umpires. Only Thorpe and Stewart made it into double figures as Murali and Jayasuriya spun an intricate web; this time England lost eight for 68. One down, with two to play, they needed to find ways both to play spin and to stop Sri Lanka getting under their skin.

The umpires must have been as glad to slink away as the England players. Men of inexperience - eight Tests apiece - they wilted under pressure, but 150 coachloads of baying English fans, egged on by televisions in the stands, cannot have helped. England were convinced that at least seven decisions went against them - hence the damage to the dressing-room window - but Sri Lanka could also point to the number of lbw shouts turned down. Muralitharan, Jayawardene, Arnold and Sangakkara were each fined 25 per cent of their match fees for rushing at the umpires.

Another aggrieved team was the one from BBC radio. They were banned from the ground on the second morning after a quarrel over media rights, and forced to broadcast, shaded by vast golfing umbrellas, from the ramparts of the 17th-century Dutch fort overlooking the stadium. An agreement let them back into the grounds for the remainder of the tour.
Man of the Match: M. S. Atapattu.

© John Wisden & Co