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
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
Contributed by Shash (sshah@*.acns.nwu.edu)