Marcus Trescothick poses among a collection of Buddha statues during the 2003 tour © Getty Images
By rights, the Asgiriya Stadium in Kandy ought to be the most tranquil setting for a cricket match anywhere in the world. It's not just the natural beauty of the sight - a delightful, atmospheric park of a ground carved directly out of the neighbouring hill-side - it is the spiritual well-being of the venue as well. A vast white statue of Buddha peers down from the heights above, and the monks of the nearby research institute seem to confer their benign blessings as they sneak glimpses of the action between chores.

And yet, how contrary the experience often turns out to be. England have been to Asgiriya twice before, in 2000-01 and 2003-04, and on each occasion their karmic brownie points have been drained as efficiently as the city's famous Temple of the Tooth is said to top them up. Both matches were coloured by some of the filthiest bouts of temper on a cricket field this decade, all of which is enough to make a monk blush.

The first fixture, in 2000-01, was indisputably the worst. Sanath Jayasuriya was given out caught at slip after hammering the ball into the ground, and hurled his helmet into the boundary boards in frustration. Kumar Sangakkara used his lawyerly logic to get so far under the skin of England's intellectual opener, Mike Atherton, that a bout of irate finger-jabbing ensued. And fines were flung around like confetti by the authoritarian match referee, Hanumant Singh, a man after whom Duncan Fletcher later named his souvenir of the trip - a giant wooden elephant.

The only man who felt any karmic blessings in that game was England's captain, Nasser Hussain. He was in the middle of a shocking run of form, interspersed with some outrageous umpiring decisions, and had managed a solitary fifty in 21 innings since the start of 2000. Now he was twice caught at bat-pad and twice given not out by the less-than-hawk-eyed local umpire, BC Cooray, en route to the century that set England up for a memorable and rancorous win.

But what comes around goes around, and three years later, Hussain was back in the ranks and back in the eye of the storm, after a less-than-civil greeting to Muttiah Muralitharan as he came out to bat in Sri Lanka's first innings. A pair of expletives, and the words "cheat" and "chucker" were widely believed to have been used, and though Hussain escaped without censure after a late-night meeting with the match referee, Clive Lloyd, he was given a sound chastising by the local media, one of whom wrote a leading article warning "Mr Hussain" to "tread lightly and mind your manners".


Sadly, for all the fun and furores that the Asgiriya has provided since its inaugural Test in 1983, its days as an international venue are strictly numbered. A new, purpose-built stadium has been commissioned at Pallekele, on the eastern outskirts of the town, and despite all the delays, disputes and planning hassles so associated with such constructions, it is expected to be up and running in time for the 2011 World Cup.

The principle problem with the Asgiriya is its ownership. The ground is the private property of Trinity College - whose alumni include Kumar Sangakkara and Ranjan Madugalle, not to mention a host of politicians and businessmen - and though the beauty of the ground is not in question, the revenue potential most certainly is.

The Asgiriya has not got much of a capacity either - there's only one permanent stand, above the players' pavilion, while the best seats in the house are the sole preserve of the Old Trinitians' Sports Club, whose exclusive clubhouse at deep midwicket is only accessible from the road.

Then there's the media facilities. Perfectly adequate for the print media, who delight in their open-fronted whitewashed vantage point, but not quite so ideal for the various TV and radio companies who jostle for cables and soundproofing on the echoing upper deck. Unless they schedule a warm-up for future tours, England will never play here again, and India in 2008 are likely to be the last visitors. It's sad to say farewell, but let's enjoy the venue while it lasts.

Andrew Miller is the former UK editor of ESPNcricinfo and now editor of The Cricketer magazine