Second Test

England v Sri Lanka

Hugh Chevallier

At Birmingham, May 30, 31, June 1, 2. England won by an innings and 111 runs. Toss: England.

The crucial moment came towards the close of the third day. Not the third day here at Edgbaston, but a fortnight earlier at Lord's, when England had at last roused themselves and remembered how to play cricket. They went on to make a stack of runs and, briefly, bowled with fire in their hearts. Whatever Duncan Fletcher and Nasser Hussain had said as they contemplated the follow-on, it was enough for England to retain an Australian intensity for the duration of the Second Test. For the first time in many a moon, England dictated terms throughout, barely suffering so much as a bad session. Their victory was as clinical as it was crushing.

For the tourists, there was just one selection issue: would Muralitharan be fit to play? He wasn't, but he played anyway, increasing the burden on his injured shoulder. Sri Lanka had won none of the 12 Tests he had missed since his 1992-93 debut and ached to have him back. So out went Ruchira Perera, undergoing remedial work on a suspect action, and in came Murali - against his wishes, it was rumoured. England also brought in a spinner, Giles, who replaced Crawley in a more balanced side of five specialist batsmen and four specialist bowlers, with Stewart and Flintoff in between. Hussain and Fletcher stuck by Hoggard, though not before his poor Lord's showing had earned him a public dressing-down, and Tudor replaced Cork.

Rain claimed the morning session but, more unusually, Hussain claimed the toss. Given the chance to exploit a dampish pitch, the England attack did so with consummate skill - or rather Caddick did. Awkward, rearing, seaming deliveries were the rule for him, the exception for his colleagues. His bounce, especially nasty for the left-handers, soon had the out-of-sorts Jayasuriya caught behind. Hoggard had already evicted Atapattu in similar fashion, leaving Sri Lanka 23 for two. The third wicket dug in to add 53 before a moment of rank idiocy prompted Sangakkara to chase a delivery from Flintoff so wide it seemed to be hurtling towards gully. Stewart somehow clung on to take his 200th dismissal as a Test wicket-keeper. Jayawardene, class running through his veins, was undone by a Caddick classic: the ball pitched short and around off stump, bucked, seamed, caught the edge and flew to second slip. After that, a farrago of feckless shots, as well as incisive bowling, hustled Sri Lanka out for 162.

The weather stole more play after tea, though there was time enough for England to face seven overs; time enough, too, for Murali to bowl a couple, and for Vaughan to hit his 1,000th Test run. The next day revealed the true value of the toss. Under a warm summer sun and on an impeccable pitch, runs simply flowed as the opening pair sailed merrily along at five an over. Trescothick should have been lbw to Buddhika Fernando when 29, but that went England's way, like everything else, until Vaughan top-edged a sweep. Butcher scratched about before settling, but soon after lunch England eased into the lead with nine wickets in hand. By the time Trescothick slammed Vaas into mid-wicket's hands on the stroke of tea, the score was 294. He and Butcher had added 202, a record for any English wicket against Sri Lanka. Trescothick showed no pity: his highest Test innings contained an array of rasping, forceful shots, including three sixes biffed over the bowler's head and 23 fours, none involving unnecessary risk.

Before the match, Jayasuriya conceded that Murali would need mollycoddling. His injured left shoulder hurt so much that each appeal turned his winsome grin into a wince of pain, yet on the second day, he still totted up 42 overs. Trescothick had kept him at bay with ease, though the ball which removed Butcher for a solid, sometimes elegant 94 was a beauty: one to replay in the mind on long winter evenings. It pitched 18 inches outside leg, spat off the pitch and clipped the off bail. Despite losing Hussain soon afterwards, England were right on top at 341 for four. Not that there was any dominance in the next passage of play. Stewart was as unable to read Murali's variations as escape his clutches, and he writhed and squirmed for an hour. It was a mercy for all when he was put out of his misery.

England began Saturday at 401 for five but, after umpire Harper hallucinated an edge from Flintoff 's increasingly confident bat, subsided to 454 for nine, as Zoysa used his height and new-found aggression in a passable impression of a left-arm Caddick. Thorpe, with 5,000 Test runs under his belt, interpreted Hoggard's arrival as a sign of impending doom, and turned down countless singles rather than risk losing strike. Two hours later, it was Hoggard, batting out of his skin, who ran out of partners. On his way to a highest Test score, he helped steer England past 500 for the second consecutive innings and saw Thorpe from 61 to a canny century. Together, they put on 91 (a tenth-wicket record between these sides) and it was Hoggard who faced more balls. Murali, whose mollycoddling restricted him to a mere 64 overs, took five wickets, yet he struggled against England's troika of left-handers; between them, they made three-quarters of the runs from the bat.

When a demoralised Sri Lanka began their second innings, 383 behind, matters took an immediate turn for the worse. Hoggard, straight back in the thick of the action and brimful of confidence, castled Jayasuriya, then despatched Sangakkara, who had kept wicket in exemplary fashion for almost two days. Sri Lanka's centurions from Lord's, Atapattu and Jayawardene, batted through the extended evening session to kindle hopes of a fightback, but next morning, Edgbaston resembled the Mary Celeste. The ball everyone was watching was being kicked by David Beckham and co as the England football team began their World Cup campaign. The crucial ball, though, was the one Atapattu dragged on to his stumps. Caddick, hitting a relentlessly menacing length, removed Jayawardene shortly afterwards. Sri Lanka showed more gumption this time, though not once the new ball was taken. Murali, who briefly batted one-handed on the first day, chose to stay in the pavilion, and England were one up in a series they had begun atrociously.

Man of the Match: M. J. Hoggard

© John Wisden & Co