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Match reports

ENGLAND v SRI LANKA 1991

Toss: England

Norman de Mesquita
15-Apr-1992
Toss: England.

After the excitement of England's victory over West Indies at The Oval, it was inevitable that this match should prove something of an anticlimax. The impression, certainly on the first day, was that England's batsmen found it difficult to concentrate against the gentler Sri Lankan attack, after all the ducking and weaving forced on them by Ambrose and company. Gooch, for instance, looked to be struggling with his timing after he decided to bat, and he fell to a smart return by Ramanayake just as he seemed to be getting to grips with the job. Similarly, Botham was beginning to suggest that the Sri Lankan bowling might be torn apart when he top-edged a hook, and Ramprakash, who had batted for so long against West Indies without getting past the twenties, stayed only five deliveries for his first Test duck. Stewart, retained as a batsman, was less than impressive early on and was dropped, hooking Ratnayake, when 24; but he showed his class and determination by refusing to be put off when three wickets fell in four overs during the hour after lunch. He then survived the departure of Botham and Lewis, and was 76 when bad light brought an early finish after 74 overs, with England 229 for six.

Friday was one of those frustrating days when rain causes a number of interruptions without falling heavily enough to allow everyone to go home early. It also featured the curious incident of Stewart scoring a run while in the pavilion, when the umpires decreed that a shot for which he ran 3 had crossed the rope and was worth four. In the meantime, Russell had been dismissed at the wrong end. After a late start, 35 overs were bowled, during which Stewart completed his maiden Test hundred in 280 minutes and 222 balls (in all he hit fourteen fours in 240 balls), England were dismissed for 282, and Sri Lanka started their innings as though playing a 40-overs match. They quickly lost Kuruppu and Gurusinha, but their captain, De Silva, batted superbly during the last half-hour, striking seven fours in 42 from only 30 deliveries.
To take advantage of England's relatively poor total, De Silva needed to bat for most of the third morning. But, much to the disappointment of a goodish Saturday crowd, he was brilliantly caught in the gully by Lewis in the second over. Hathurusinghe remained watchful and stubborn among his cavalier colleagues, and he found a like-minded ally in Tillekeratne. The wicket-keeper stayed for an hour and a quarter, only to lob a simple catch to forward short leg ten minutes before lunch, which Sri Lanka took in some disarray at 148 for six. The early afternoon session was enlivened by the hitting of Ratnayake, who followed his five for 69 in England's innings with a half-century in only 51 balls, including seven fours. He was the first Sri Lankan to achieve this double in a Test, but soon afterwards he took a severe blow on the helmet from Defreitas. Several balls later he became the fast bowler's fifth wicket in his best Test return of seven for 70. Sri Lanka were all out for 224, a deficit of 58.
Gooch and Morris quickly built on that lead, with the England captain looking more like his efficient, magisterial self than in the first innings. By the close he was 60 and had hit seven fours, one all run, off 115 balls. He completed a record sixth Test hundred at Lord's, and his first against Sri Lanka, on the fourth morning, and was eventually bowled by Anurasiri for 174 after plundering the bowling for nineteen fours in 252 balls. The arrival of Russell, rather than Ramprakash or Botham, when Gooch was out came as a surprise, and the England management's subsequent explanation - something about wanting the left-hander to cope with the rough outside the leg stump - was none too convincing.
England's declaration left Sri Lanka needing 423 with 132 overs remaining; realistically it was an improbable target, because no side had scored so many in the fourth innings for a Test victory. Sri Lanka started as though they meant to make a stab at it, and it took England 25 overs to make the initial breakthrough. Lewis, the fourth bowler used, had Kuruppu leg before with the score 50, and then the somewhat belated introduction of Tufnell quickly accounted for Hathurusinghe, who chipped the ball to short mid-on.
On the final day Sri Lanka needed 344 to win with eight wickets in hand. Tufnell opened the proceedings, and in his seventh over of the morning he bowled Gurusinha round his legs, deceived though the air while trying to sweep. Lawrence had the next success, although De Silva looked surprised to be given caught at the wicket for a stubborn 18. His batting had been in complete contrast to his first innings, but it was a game that seemed alien to him. When, just before lunch, Mahanama was taken at slip off Tufnell, half the side had gone for 159. Nevertheless Jayasuriya, who had struck six fours while compiling 30 from only 28 balls before the interval, continued to bat as though he thought Sri Lanka could win. He hurried on to 66 before he was caught behind off the 70th ball he faced, and after that it was simply a matter of time before England won. Had they not spilled three catches before lunch and two afterwards, the match might have been over much earlier. As it was, the new ball was taken and tea delayed, giving Sri Lanka a moral victory of sorts.
The victory that counted, however, went to England, when Tufnell had Anurasiri leg-before with the third ball after the eventual tea interval, leaving Ramanayake not out 34 after an hour and a half. The winning margin was a comfortable 137 runs with more than 28 overs to spare. Tufnell finished with his third five-wicket return in his sixth Test, and the crowd, better than expected for the final day, went home having had a reasonable day's entertainment.
Men of the Match: England- A. J. Stewart; Sri Lanka- R. J. Ratnayake.
Attendance: 38,000; receipts £451,600.
Close of play: First day, England 229-6 ( A. J. Stewart 76*, R. C. Russell 11*); Second day, Sri Lanka 75-2 ( U. C. Hathurusinghe 19*, P. A. De Silva 42*); Third day, England 100-1 ( G. A. Gooch 60*, A. J. Stewart 7*); Fourth day, Sri Lanka 79-2 ( A. P. Gurusinha 16*; P. A. De Silva 7*).