It’s bad when the aftermath starts on day two. We didn’t realise we’d be so much further on by day three though.
We’re struck by the contrast with Sri Lanka’s tour of England in 2006. When Sri Lanka arrived, they were, without wishing to be disparaging, ripe for the taking. They were generally quite a young side with very minimal experience of English conditions. Their openers looked particularly vulnerable as both were inexperienced thanks to the temporary retirement of Benevolent Uncle Sanath. England A annihilated them in a warm-up match.
In the first Test, England hit 551 and Sri Lanka followed-on after making just 192. ‘Ah, poor Sri Lanka’, thought England’s players and proceeded to lose all sense of urgency. England may have dropped no fewer than TEN catches in the innings, but Sri Lanka’s 537-9 to save the game was the worthiest display of determination and learning-on-your-feet we can remember. The innings is remembered for Jayawardene’s hundred, but five other players hit fifties – some supremely Tavaré-esque.
England won the second Test and kidded themselves that they were still miles better than Sri Lanka. In the third, the two sides matched each other run-for-run until England found themselves batting last against Murali and realised that actually, they weren’t better. Series drawn.
Then, in the one-dayers, these young Sri Lankans, who were so unfamiliar with English conditions, carried out the most efficient demolition job on a home side in recent memory, winning every game. In the fifth and final match, Sri Lanka chased 321 inside 38 overs – Upul ‘vulnerable opener’ Tharanga hitting his second hundred of the series.
Compare that to this England side, who won the one-day series a month ago and since then have gone precisely nowhere – at best.
Sri Lanka v England, third Test, third day at Galle
Sri Lanka 499-8 declared (Mahela Jayawardene 213 not out, Chaminda Vaas 90, Tillekeratne Dilshan 84, Steve Harmison 3-104)
England 81 (Chaminda Vaas 4-28)