For the third time in six years Sri Lanka sent a team to England to play a series of first-class matches, mostly against the counties. In 1979, while they were here, they performed quite creditably in the Prudential World Cup; in 1981 their visit coincided with their election to full membership of the International Cricket Conference. Nothing they had ever done, however, outside their own country, bore any comparison with the remarkable success they enjoyed in the Test match against England at Lord's at the end of August 1984, their first in this country.
Having been put in by David Gower, on a morning when the ball was expected to swing, they were still batting two days later, by when Sidath Wettimuny had made 190, the highest score by anyone on his first Test appearance in England, and the Sri Lankan captain, Duleep Mendis, had raced to a hundred in only 112 balls. In the end Sri Lanka gained a first-innings lead of 121 and had the better of a drawn game, Mendis having come, by then, within 6 runs of making a second century.
Not surprisingly this achievement dwarfed all else on the tour. For the most part the Sri Lankans struggled to hold their own against the counties, of whom they played seven. They failed, in fact, to win a first-class match and lost to Surrey at The Oval. The only two sides they bowled out, even once, were Kent (who scored 420 for five declared in their second innings) and England. This overall record accurately indicated the weakness of their attack. As on their previous tours, they had no-one of any real pace, and they were hampered now by injuries.
The leg-spinner, Somachandra de Silva, as well as Ashantha de Mel and Vinothen John, their three most experienced bowlers, were all less than fully fit for the Test match. Guy de Alwis, the first-string wicket-keeper, had to return home early with a broken finger, and Ranjan Madugalle received facial injuries, which did his confidence no good, when set upon by a drunken passer-by near the team's hotel in Canterbury. Ravi Ratnayeke, a tall all-rounder who bats left-handed and bowls right, took on extra work and did well.
The batsmen played mostly with a wristy charm and a keen determination not to be subdued. Boosted by their showing at Lord's - they were of the opinion that the pitch there was the best they had ever batted on - they went to Edgbaston where they declared twice against Warwickshire. Amal Silva, a left-hander who made Wettimuny a good opening partner, finished the tour by making 102 not out in the second innings of the Test match - his maiden first class hundred - followed by 161 not out and 70 against Warwickshire. The left-handed Arjuna Ranatunga also played attractively while making 84 at Lord's, and Madugalle looked a well-balanced, quick-footed player. The only disappointment among the batsmen was Roy Dias, though he, too, made his top score in the Test match.
A certain portliness among some of the side showed up in the field and reflected the side's carefree, if not pragmatic, approach to the game. They were an appreciative and popular party. Neil Chanmugam, himself a former Sri Lankan player, managed the team with impressive authority. They were accompanied on the tour and coached by D. V. Smith, the former Sussex and England cricketer and now professional at Lancing College.
Match reports for
Duchess of Norfolk's XI v Sri Lankans at Arundel, Aug 16, 1984