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England in Sri Lanka, Mar 1993 - Brief Summary

England in Sri Lanka 1992-3, Tour Summary
Sri Lanka Flogs a Dead England - Sportstar April 10, 1993

  The topsy-turny world of limited overs cricket can produce  the
most  stunning  results.  The plight of the two teams that fought
out a World Cup a year ago is  sufficient  to  prove  the  point.
Here  was  England,  World-Cup runner-up, losing by a mile to Sri
Lanka while Pakistan, much vaunted  champion,  went  through  the
horrors in Australia and South Africa.
  They say that while the overs are limited, the thrills are  un-
limited.   So too, it appears, the spills.  What a fall there was
in the little island where England, twice, the bridesmaid in suc-
cession in the big event, was no match for the skills of the Lan-
kans.  No two matches could have been so decisive because England
chased  once and batted first once and still ended up losing both
matches by a distance as it is said in the parlance  of  the  ra-
  The lights were on at  the  Tyronne  Fernando  Stadium  outside
Colombo.   It  was  the event of the season drawing a fair crowd.
It was a carnival for th localities who came to  see  the  former
rulers  whipped.   The Lankan batsmen were the tormentors, toying
with the England attack to make 250 in the 47 overs, three  short
of  the  regulation 50, that England bowled.  The chase was never
on,  particularly  after  the  opening  bowlers  Ramanayake   and
Wickremasinghe  had  Stewart  and Smith back in the pavilion long
before the maker's name was rubbed off the red cherry.
  Lanka's former rungetters, Mahanama  and  Gurusinha,  may  have
failed  early  in the match but there was enough batting ammo' to
make five-plus an over.  The five scores of 34 and above was tes-
timony  on  how  much the Lankans have come on in this version of
the game.  The stress was on team effort and the batsmen respond-
ed  in the grand manner, attaching little importance to their own
dismissals so long as the runs were flowing.
  Not even England's specialist at the one-day chase, Neil  Fair-
brother,  could swing the odds this time as he had in India where
he had put his side ahead in the series before India drew back to
tie  at three-all.  The Lancastrian was the top runmaker.  He had
three more than the Worcestershire lad Hick, of whom much was ex-
pected  after  his having run into proper form in India.  Collec-
tively, the performance meant nothing with the  specialist  order
folding for 99 runs before the halfway mark.
  To lost by 80 runs was bad enough but to leave almost 14  overs
unutilised  represented  the  very depths of one-day performance.
The pundits were scratching their heads.  Was this just  a  hang-
over  of  the  Indian tour where all three Tests had been lost or
was the host side just having a good day?   In  their  own  self-
analyzing way, the Englishmen trotted out all possible excuses to
brush off the one-day defeat.
  The Test would be different, they said.  How wrong they  proved
despite  the  good  looking  total near enought to 400 on batting
first?  The Lankan spinners were rampant on a surface aiding spin
as  the match wore on and defeat was inevitable.  Euphoria is not
exactly the right term to describe the feelings  as  there  never
does  seem  to be enough people at a cricket ground at Colombo to
generate such a passion.  But  the  cricketers  were  justifiably
proud.   They  had  downed  an  enemy  who had beaten them in Sri
Lanka's first ever Test when the fledgling nation was a Test  in-
nocent  in  more  ways than one.  A change has come about in just
over 10 years.
  The Englishmen were a thoroughly  demoralized  lost  after  the
Test.   It  was predictable that the one-day series would also go
to the host.  But none would have imagined the verdict  would  be
so  crushing.   The Lankans were rampant once again, winning with
nearly 15 overs to spare.  Two wins with so much to spare  signi-
fied  success  of  a  rare magnitude in the limited-overs game in
which the lesser side must stand a good chance of downing a  more
fancied combination.
  England was probably in with a chance after a reasonable  start
in  which  Robin  Smith and Graeme Hick added 50, the first stand
for England of such proportions in the series.  The collapse  be-
gan  when the innocent-looking left arm spin of Sanath Jayasuriya
proved a web of intrigue for a spin shocked team.  The  transfor-
mation  was  dramatic  after  Smith  charged  the  spinner  to be
stumped.  Jayasuriya returned with the fine figures  of  six  for
29,  running  through the England order after a couple of leg be-
fore decisions were handed down against the tourists.  The  bats-
men  returned,  nodding  their heads in their inability to under-
stand the reason for the umpires deciding thus.  But this is  the
way  the  cookie  crumbles  for  any  side that hits rock bottom.
Nothing goes right.
  The tourists were put out of their  misery  before  long  by  a
dashing 75 from Aravinda de Silva, who is to be rated the one-day
game's most explosive batsmen.  There is no predicting where Ara-
vinda  will hit the ball when he is in the mood.  His batting as-
sumes a command that is  very  rare  even  in  the  limited-overs
cricket.  He destroyed the spirit, broke the back of the English-
men, and sent them home to lick their wounds.
  The sarcastic response of the media to such a  performance  was
understandable.   An  Englishman  wrote  back  to  England saying
Stewart was a good stand-in for Graham Gooch since  he  had  been
tutored  well  in  the art of losing matches.  It is as well that
Gooch did not stay to the end of the trip.  The defeats might put
a  different  perspective on the captaincy, since it did not seem
to matter who led England.  The only certainty was defeat.
  The victories were a shot in the arm for  Sri  Lankan  cricket.
The search for cricketing respectability may have ended with such
a convincing whitewash of England of England which not even India
could  achieve  in  the one-dayers.  All that remains now for Sri
Lankan cricket is to play the West Indians in a Test series  some
day somewhere.  It is a sad aspect of the economy of cricket that
the islanders have never met in a Test match.   Maybe,  the  time
has come.

 Contributed by Shash (sshah@*

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