Aubrey Kuruppu, courtesy of The Sunday Times, 15 May 2016 where the title is “That memorable win in Old Blighty”
On the eve of the Headingly Test, it is with a sense of nostalgia that one recalls Sri Lanka’s last, very successful, visit to England in 2014. The first test at Lords followed the script but Sri Lanka just about survived. The second saw history being made when the visitors were able to defeat Cook’s English team by a hundred runs off the penultimate delivery. Skipper Mathews was special, producing an unbelievable knock that ultimately made the difference. However, the accolade must, undoubtedly, also go to Sangakkara for his remarkable consistency over the four innings. Scores of 147 and 61, 79 and 55 made him stand head and shoulders above almost anyone on either side.
After the last ball at Lords 2015 — www.timesofoman.com
First Test – Lords, June 12-16
England’s bright young striker, Joe Root, took centre stage with a quite magnificent 200 not out. Others batted around him, notably Bell with 56, Prior 86, Moeen Ali 48, Broad 47 and Plunkett (back in the team after seven years) 39. Pacies Nuwan Pradeep (4-123) and Eranga (3-163) upstaged left armer Herath who had 1-136. A near 600 run total (575-9 to be precise) but the Sri Lankans showed that they were up for the challenge. Mathews 102 and Sangakkara 147 played stellar roles, while Jayawardena 55, Kaushal Silva 63 and Karunaratne 38 made decent contributions. Anderson and Jordan (3 each) together with Plunkett (2-116) saw the visitors bowled out for 453 – a deficit of 122.
With an eye on a declaration, England proceeded at nearly four an over before calling the batsmen in. Balance, with an unbeaten 104, played the lead role. Cook struggled through for 28 and it was left to Broad and Jordan to underline their all round usefulness with knocks of 24 and 35 respectively.
Herath came into his own an a fourth day pitch, bagging 4-95 in England’s total of 267-8. Sri Lanka were offered a target of 390 in 90 overs, at exactly four and a half runs an over. There were half centuries from Kaushal Silva and inevitably from Sangakkara, but little else. The last pair held on to deny England a victory which they probably deserved on the run of play. Anderson was impeccable as his figures of 19-10-25-4 showed. Broad 3-43 and Jordan 2-34 helped out, but they were unable to prise apart the last pair.
Second Test – Headlingley – June 20-24
Put into bat, Sri Lanka reached 257 on the back of another solid 79 from Sangakkara, a 45 from Chandimal and twenties from Jayawardena, Mathews and Karunaratne. Once more, the English seamers proved adequate for the task. Plunkett had a five for, while Broad and Anderson shared the balance five.
Robson, playing in his second test, topped the lot with 127. Bell 64 and Balance 74 contributed handsomely. Mathews returned his best test figures (4-44) while Eranga also pouched four.
The leeway of 108 didn’t faze the Sri Lankans who batted well at the top. Karunaratne 45, Sangakkara 55 and Jayawardena 79 found few terrors in the attack. A few wickets fell and it was left to the Skipper (who made his fourth century with 160) and the unlikely Rangana Herath to come to their rescue with a stupendous 8th wicket partnership of 149. Mathews shielded the spinner at the start, but seeing him getting behind the ball and playing with increasing confidence, gave him his head later on.
Plunkett (4-112) returned the best figure while the tireless Anderson captured 3-96. Sri Lanka were bowled out eventually for 457 which left the home team a victory target of 350. Robson, Root and Jordan made small contributions. It was Moeen Ali, coming down the order who made a gritty hundred – his first. Guidance, advice, Moeen gave plenty of it to last man Anderson who stuck around for a while. Finally, one was dug in and Anderson’s effort at fending it off, only served up a dolly to Herath at leg slip. An authoritative performance by Dhammika Prasad (22-5-50-5) set up the win which was Sri Lanka’s first over the ‘mother country’ in England.
Today… 2016: The scenario for this series is slightly, different. Minus the two ‘greats’, Sri Lanka’s batting has an iffy look about it. Headingly provides movement off the seam, and this being the early part of the summer, there should be a bet of it. As for the batting, Sri Lankans will be full of hope and not certainty.
The bowling is a slightly different matter. Eranga and Nuwan Pradeep had decent outings last time out. Throw Dhammika Prasad – a fighter and a wicket-taker – into the mix. Herath will supplement them with some tight spin. All in all, the bowling looks adequate.
England has the solidity of Cook at the top of the order. Root, who has been quite fantastic lately, will presumably come in at three. There is a possibility that Bell may come back, at 34. Stokes at six will be a key player and must be looking for an opportunity to rebuild his reputation which was shot to pieces by “King Carlos”.