Sri Lanka look forward to interesting series against England
by Rex Clementine
While Sri Lanka is yet to decide on the composition of the squad for the series, England have already named their ODI and Test sides. It would be interesting to see whether Sri Lanka would go with their two captain policy or would stick to one. England of course would have Michael Vaughan at the helm. While Sri Lanka will come to the series after a long break from International cricket, England’s last commitment before their Christmas break would be here. They’ve had a busy summer where they have hosted Pakistan, Zimbabwe and South Africa, where they’ve played a host of One-Day Internationals and eight Tests. Before Sri Lanka they’ll also travel to Bangladesh for a two Test series.
The last series between the teams
The last series between England and Sri Lanka was played last year when England hosted Sri Lanka for three Tests and an ODI triangular series. The Sri Lankans had the upper hand earlier on in the competition and looked threatening, but slowly faded away and came back home empty handed without winning anything worthwhile.
The first Test was played at Lord’s. Sri Lanka were sans Muttiah Muralitharan and looked as if they came to play the match seeking a draw. After Mahela Jayawardene and Marvan Atapattu put up big hundreds, on a flat wicket, Sri Lanka had a good chance to win the game as the hosts struggled under pressure. But Sri Lankan skipper Sanath Jayasuriya’s negative tactics and the inability to go all out for a win came in for much criticism. Finally the first Test was drawn, but a resurgent English side thrashed the visitors in the next two Tests. Incidentally this was the first time England had given three Tests to the islanders in England. All the previous Tests in England have been one off affairs.
The tri-nation tournament began after the Tests and India were the third team. Sri Lanka had a miserable performance here too. Nothing went right for them and the Lankans returned home after winning just a couple of ODIs without qualifying for the final of the competition. The final was won by India in an amazing run chase thanks to youngsters Mohammed Kaif and Yuvraj Singh.
Sri Lanka host England in 2001
The first three match Test series was played between the countries in 2001 February-March, when Sri Lanka hosted them. The English were forced to give the Sri Lankans the three match "luxury" after the islanders beat them in the one off Test at the Oval in 1998. The Tests were played in Galle, Kandy and Colombo.
England had come for the series well prepared. In fact this was an English side that was in resurgence. They had come to Sri Lanka after beating Pakistan in Pakistan 1-0 in the Test series that preceded this one. They had a new captain and a coach and English cricket was in revival, some said.
The English also had seemed to have done meticulous planning for the series. They had requested for plenty of practice matches before the first Test in Galle. The English side arrived in the country on the 31st of January. They played three warm up games, the first one was played at De Zoysa Stadium, Moratuwa, then they shifted to P. Sara Stadium, Colombo and finally to Uyanwatta Stadium, Matara before the first Test.
Sri Lankans cricketers meanwhile were having a tough time. They had lost the Test series in South Africa in humiliating fashion and the players needed to do something to restore their pride. Muttiah Muralitharan, who had made the English look awful in the previous series between the sides, was also struggling with his fitness after suffering a groin injury and it was not sure whether the spinner would be available to play in the crucial series.
However, Sri Lanka took a gamble and played Muralitharan in the Tests. Although Muralitharan had decent success, the English players seemed to have learned new ways and means of taking him on. Marvan Atapattu made a brilliant double hundred to make sure Sri Lanka get a huge first innings total. With all the bowlers contributing well, the Sri Lankan made the English follow on and went onto win the game by an innings and 10 runs.
A controversial series
Indeed it was a controversial series. The match referee of the series, Hanumanth Singh of India took things way out of hand punishing several players from both sides throughout the series. However, it was felt that the hosts suffered the most due to the match referee’s actions. After the first Test, the Sri Lankan players Muttiah Muralitharan and Kumar Sangakkara were fined for their indiscipline along with England’s Graeme Hick. The former were punished for too much of appealing while the latter was found guilty of dissent. Sri Lankan skipper Sanath Jayasuriya too was fined for not controlling his players properly.
The umpiring in the series too was awful. While the umpiring of Sri Lanka’s Peter Manuel and India’s A.V. Jayaprakash came in for severe media criticism, the umpiring of B.C. Cooray and Rudi Koertzen came in for criticism in the second Test in Kandy. Particularly the umpiring of Cooray was scrutinized both in the local and international media. Cooray gave several baffling decisions in the second Test and that possibly made things easy for England to equal the series. Cooray’s decision to rule out Sri Lankan skipper Sanath Jayasuriya came in for severe criticism. Jayasuriya cutting an Andy Caddick delivery hit the ball straight into the ground. Graham Thorpe in gully collected the ball on the re-bound and appealed and to the surprise of everyone, the umpire ruled the Sri Lankan skipper out. The decision created hostile reaction from the crowd and a fuming Sri Lankan skipper threw his bat and cricket equipments in anger on his way to the dressing room.
Following the incident, match referee Hanumanth Singh held an inquiry into the incident and awarded the Sri Lankan skipper a suspended ban. Later, Jayasuriya apologized for the incident. Cooray’s miserable performance continued right throughout and England went onto win the game and square the series. After the Test, the local media were out for Cooray’s blood. "Umpire Cooray bats for England," an English daily said in it’s sports page headline after England’s victory. Incidentally that happened to be Cooray’s last Test.
The teams returned to Colombo for the final Test. SSC hosted the game. The Sri Lankan batsmen after showing so much of composure and winning the first Test without any trouble at all went onto lose the final Test in dramatic fashion. The failure of the Sri Lankan batsmen was pointed as the main reason for defeat. Skipper Sanath Jayasuriya in particular had a miserable series. The home team had preferred the young T.M. Dilshan over the experienced Hashan Tillekaratne to bat in the middle order during the series and that decision too proved to be too costly.
For England the efforts of middle order batsman Graeme Thorpe were significant in the final Test. While the left-hander made an unbeaten hundred in the first innings he remained once again unbeaten in the second innings playing a vital role until the English sealed victory in the Test and the series to the utter disappointment of the Sri Lankan supporters.
However, there was some consolation for the hosts when they thrashed the English in the three match ODI series. Nasser Hussein returned home without playing the ODIs due to injury and Thorpe captained the side. The first ODI was played at Dambulla while the teams returned to R. Premadasa Stadium for the second ODI under lights. The final game was played at the SSC and Marvan Atapattu made his debut as Sri Lanka captain as Jayasuriya was injured and the Lankans went onto win the game by 10 wickets. They won the series too 3-0.
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