Rex Clementine, in the Sunday Island, 8 May 2016, where the title reads “When Sri Lanka had a bone to pick with England”
On Wednesday as the national cricket team took wings to England for a two month tour, captain Angelo Mathews speaking to journalists remembered with fondness the team’s last tour to England, two years ago. The last day of that tour saw much jubilation as Sri Lanka created history by winning their first Test series in England. Arjuna Ranatunga’s superheroes prior to that had won a one off Test series in 1998.Mathews said that he will remember the series ‘for the rest of his life’. It will be the same for several other players as well. And the fans celebrated that series win as if that were the country’s greatest win in sport. The players and fans had been angered by what had preceded prior to the series. They had a bone to pick with England.
Farbrace abandons Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka enjoyed a glorious run in the two month period prior to tour of England. Under new coach Paul Farbrace, Sri Lanka won the Asia Cup and the icing on the cake was when they emerged victorious in the ICC World T-20 after losing four successive finals at ICC events.
But what transpired in the next two days after the team returned to the island shocked the entire nation. It was revealed that coach Farbrace had been having secret talks with English and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to take over as England’s Assistant Coach. SLC had struggled to get a qualified full time coach for months and after many hiccups had finally signed up Farbrace. The former Kent player was just a few months into his two-year contract with SLC and the ECB grabbing away Sri Lanka’s coach irked many officials and fans.
Furthermore, the Big Three (India, Australia and England) had just taken over the control of the International Cricket Council (ICC). When the take-over happened, what Giles Clarke, the head of ECB said was that through the take-over, the future of smaller cricket nations like Sri Lanka was secure. A few months later, Clarke had done a Brutus.
And SLC made all the right noises at the start. They were angry that ECB was sabotaging Sri Lankan cricket. They even promised legal actions against Farbrace. However, ECB struck a secret deal with SLC. They were paid US$ 100,000 as compensation for grabbing the coach away. After that, SLC saw no evil, heard no evil and spoke no evil.
Worse, Farabrace was taken away just weeks before Sri Lanka’s tour of England. He had loads of information to provide England players on their counterparts. Much later, we learned that two senior Sri Lankan players had encouraged Farbrace to take up the offer saying, ‘it’s a lifetime opportunity’!
Michael Vaughan’s tweets: Former England captain Michael Vaughan had continuously ridiculed the Sri Lankans. He had labeled Sri Lanka’s bowling attack ‘a glorified county attack’. But the last straw was when Vaughan made fun of Sri Lanka’s national anthem. ‘Just rung home, made a brew, been to the toilet and made a cake during the Sri Lankan national anthem…’ Vaughan tweeted. The backslash was immense. A Sri Lankan fan responded to Vaughan saying ‘Sorry that amazing anthem put the fear of god in you and made you wet your pants. Did you change those too? Another fan hit back asking, ‘And God save Elizabeth from what?’
When Sri Lanka completed the series win in Vaughan’s hometown Leeds, captain Angelo Mathews turned up the heat on the Yorkshireman. “There was a little bit of a debate saying that my attack is not quite good enough for county cricket. That fired us up,” Mathews said.
Step-motherly treatment: Ever since Arjuna’s superheroes humbled England winning their first Test on English soil, the ECB had entertained Sri Lanka for three Test series. Accordingly, each time Sri Lanka visited England in 2002, 2006 and 2011, they had played three match series. However, for the summer of 2014, it had been reduced to a two match series.
That summer, India were touring England as well. So when the ECB drew up the schedule, they saw a goldmine. Games against Sri Lanka hardly earn cricket boards much revenue. However, India brings in much riches. The bosses of ECB went onto betray British sense of fair play for 30 pence of silver. They cut Sri Lanka’s series to two games while giving India as many as five Test matches. That night British fair play was dead and buried
Fightback at Lord’s and glory at Leeds: Sri Lanka staged a remarkable fightback at Lord’s in the first Test to draw the game and then history was created in the second Test at Leeds.
Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Sunil Gavaskar, Ricky Ponting and Jacques Kallis are all members of that exclusive club of batsmen who have made more than 10,000 Test runs. But they all have one regret in common and that is not scoring a Test hundred at Lord’s. Kumar Sangakkara, another great of the game, was on his last tour of England and it was going to be his last appearance at the Home of Cricket as well. He too didn’t have a century at Lord’s. A man obsessed with fine performances at the game’s biggest theaters and quality oppositions, Sangakkara was hurt by the fact that he didn’t have a century at Lord’s. His previous best score was 62 in 2006. He was a determined man and hard work paid off on his last visit to the Lord’s turf as he reached his century on day three with a glorious cover drive off Joe Root.
England batting first had piled up a mammoth 575 for nine declared. Sangakkara with a superb 147 held Sri Lanka’s innings together and Mathews joined the party making century at Lord’s in his first appearance. England declared their second innings overnight on day four at 267 for eight. Sri Lanka were set a target of 390, but in reality they had to bat out 90 overs to draw the game.
The tourists had shaped well reaching 164 for three at tea. They had to bat out just one hour after tea to ensure a draw. But in that one hour period, they lost two more wickets to make it 189 for five with captain Mathews and wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene in the middle.
England knew they were just one more wicket short of running into the Sri Lankan tail and instead of a handshake, England opted to go flat out.
They had three overs to take the last two wickets. Veteran Rangana Herath negotiated two overs, but off the first delivery of the final over was caught behind. Last man Nuwan Pradeep had to face the music for the next five deliveries. There was tension and drama as Stuart Broad beat the bat a couple of times without finding the edge. Pradeep now had to see off one last delivery to earn Sri Lanka a famous draw. The final Broad delivery struck on Pradeep’s pads and umpire Rod Tucker ruled him leg before wicket. Thankfully, Sri Lanka had one review left and Pradeep went for it straightaway. Replays showed that the batsman had edged the ball to his pad and England’s celebrations were cut shot as the decision was overturned.
The Leeds Test was equally dramatic. Sangakkara hit a purple patch during the series making twin fifties at Leeds following scores of 147 and 61 at Lord’s. Mathews went a step further by making a century (160) at Leeds.
England were set a target of 350 in four sessions. The game looked to be in Sri Lanka’s bag when Dhammika Prasad ran through the top order. Day four ended with England on 55 for five and Sri Lanka in firm control. But Moeen Ali fought back and helped his team to take the game the full distance. The tourists had to toil and had to wait till the penultimate delivery of the game to dismiss England’s last batsman James Anderson and seal a famous win.