England v Sri Lanka

CricInfo live report

Day 1: Hick steers England to strong position

A lovely late summer's day at the Oval greeted Sri Lanka, playing their first Test in England since 1991. After England suprisingly were asked to bat, a good partnership between Hick and Ramprakash left them in a strong position at the end of the day, Hick having completed his 5th Test hundred, and in all likelyhood, booked his passage to Australia.

Atherton's back problems gave Steve James a second chance at Test cricket, and Ben Hollioake was preferred to Croft. Vaas was still unfit, so Sri Lanka included Dharmasena, leaving them a bowling attack largely reliant on spin. Inexplicably, Ranatunga inserted England, possibly misreading the wicket. Butcher and James opened against Wickramasinghe and debutant Perera in front of a sell-out crowd. The wicket held few terrors, but both bowled well, and Butcher fell to a ball that swung and seamed away from him. This brought in Hick, moved up to number 3 in the absence of Hussain. Hick had failed twice in the last test against South Africa trying to force the pace early, but was more subdued here. He and James saw off the seamers, but found scoring difficult against tight spin bowling. James never looked settled but battled to a useful 36, falling shortly after lunch to a clever piece of bowling from Muralitharan, who failing to find turn, used variation and flight. Stewart gave Perera his first Test wicket an over later, playing a loose shot to a long hop, and this brought together Hick and Ramprakash, two batsman who have promised so much, but all too often failed to deliver. A quick wicket here would have had England in trouble, but the bowling caused neither much concern. Hick punished anything loose, and without a semblance of a chance advanced to his fifth Test hundred. Ramprakash, playing stylishly, had completed his half-century before sweeping Muralitharan to square leg - a lapse in concentration, perhaps. They had put on 128 for the 4th wicket, and Sri Lanka had resorted to negative tactics, at times bowling outside of the leg stump from wide of the crease. Crawley, another player hoping to make his mark on the selectors, saw out the rest of the day with Hick.

Ranatunga will regret not choosing to bat on a benign wicket, offering little turn or assistance to seam bowlers. The day belonged to England and Hick, who played a mature innings. They will be looking to build a 400 plus total tomorrow, but on this pitch, a draw is already looking like a probable result.

Day 2: Last wicket excitement for England, then Jaya fights back..

A cooler day, with more cloud cover, and another full house at the Oval saw an interesting morning's cricket, marked by patient batting, and some excellent off-spin bowling. Ranatunga opened with his seamers, and was soon rewarded when Hick edged a ball from Wickramasinghe to the keeper without adding to his overnight score. Crawley and Hollioake played with caution, especially against Muralitharan, who was bowling superbly, with variation in flight and spin. Both batsman were willing to use their feet against the spinners, and Crawley briefly broke the shackles with two boundaries off an over. With Perera bowling well at one end, Hollioake became increasingly frustrated, and, trying a big drive from down the wicket, fell into Muralitharan's trap, caught at mid-on. Accurate bowling allowed Ranatunga to set 6-3 fields for much of the morning. By lunch Crawley had advanced to an excellent half-century, but good bowling and imaginative captaincy had prevented England seizing the advantage.

After lunch, England continued their somewhat pedestrian prgress, with Crawley and Cork having difficulty pushing the scoring rate along, the 50 partnership coming up in 16 overs. Cork, uncharacteristically, laboured over an hour for his 6 runs, and Crawley, playing for his place on the Australian tour party, batted well but conservatively. Muralitharan removed Cork with the first ball of a new spell, bowling him through the gate as he pushed down the wrong line. Salisbury pushed a few singles, but then oddly was bowled behind his legs as a Muralitharan off break turned sharply from off stump to hit the top of leg. This gave Muralitharan his 15th 5 wicket haul in Tests, and 23 wickets in five first-class innings on the tour. Meanwhile Crawley crept sedately to his third Test century, in 252 minutes, and 196 balls. Gough was out, caught off bat then pad, sportingly walking, giving Muralitharan his 6th wicket. The best entertainment of the day came from the last wicket partnership between Crawley and Fraser, with Crawley trying for quick runs, and Fraser hitting Perara for several stylish boundaries, one hook being one he will savour for some time. When Crawley struck Muralitharan for consecutive fours, the previous last wicket partnership for England v Sri Lanka was passed, and soon after England passed 400. The tea interval was delayed with 9 wickets down, but runs flowed freely in the extra 30 minutes, Fraser smashing Muralitharan for a big six over deep square leg. Crawley reached his 150 off 240 balls, and they went in for a late tea with the partnership worth 78.

Fraser lasted long enough after tea to reach his highest Test score with a six over mid-wicket, only to be yorked next ball by Muralitharan whose 7 wickets cost 155 runs. Atapattu and Jayasuriya made a bright start, taking advantage of some uncharacteristically loose bowling from Fraser. Jayasuriya played attractively with some lovely cover drives. Stewart juggled his bowlers, and Cork trapped Atapattu in front with a swinging full length ball. Only slowed momentarily by a Cork bouncer that hit him on the arm, Jayasuriya reached a fine fifty out of 68 off 58 balls. Salisbury came on to bowl two overs at the close, and managed to extract some turn from his home pitch, which will bring England some hope.

Apart from the last wicket stand, Sri Lanka would be well pleased with their day, and with Jayasuriya looking in superb form will be hoping for a good total tomorrow. Crawley's innings will have assured him of a tour pace, filled as it was with elegant wristy shots, but the happiest man this evening is likely Angus Fraser, who will relish his innings for a long time.

Day 3: A feast of runs for Sri Lanka

A full house again at the Oval, and they were treated to an exhibition of batting, with a superlative double century from Jayasuriya, and a solid hundred from De Silva. By the end of the day Sri Lanka were one run ahead, with 7 first innings wickets remaining, and England were comtemplating facing Muralitharan again from a subtantial first innings deficit.

Both Fraser and Gough immediately found a better length and line than the previous evening, and Fraser was rewarded when Jayawardene attempted a big drive, and a thick edge was well taken by Hollioake in the gully. This did not slow Sri Lanka, and Jayasuriya, partnered by DeSilva, treated the crowd to an exhibition of stroke play. Jayasuriya cut and drove his way to his hundred in only 161 minutes off 124 balls, with 17 fours. De Silva was equally enterprising, and the fifty partnership came up off a mere six overs.

The afternoon started calmly, with both batsman clearly intent on playing themselves in again, but the calm was followed by a storm of boundaries as Jayasuriya opened up. He took 25 off 6 balls from Salisbury and Cork, reaching his 150 in spectacular fashion. CricInfo described it thus:-

57.3 Salisbury to Jayasuriya, FOUR, long hop, Salisbury kicks at
the ground frustatedly

57.4 Salisbury to Jayasuriya, two runs, sweep shot, beats
Stewart, fielded by Hollioake at fine-leg

57.5 Salisbury to Jayasuriya, FOUR, short, pulled away through
mid-wicket - that could have gone for six, ten runs off the last
3 balls

57.6 Salisbury to Jayasuriya, one run, sweeps, Ramprakash comes
in to field from deep backward square-leg

End of over 58 (12 runs) Sri Lanka 221/2

Salisbury 15-4-45-0

ST Jayasuriya 140* (210b 22x4) PA de Silva 48* (75b 7x4)

58.1 Cork to Jayasuriya, FOUR, pulled in the air but high over
the head of square-leg

58.2 Cork to Jayasuriya, FOUR, driven past mid-off, diving in
vain (James)

58.3 Cork to Jayasuriya, SIX, clipped up off his leg stump,
[spontaneous applause] - 150 for Jayasuriya, 150 partnership too
Cork was warned for the second time for following through on the pitch, and may well have welcomed a compulsory retirement from bowling as the runs continued to flow. After a good start to his spell, Salisbury's control deserted him and loose balls were severely punished. Stewart turned to Ramprakash, who bowled his first three overs for four runs, but three fours off his fifth over took Jayasuriya within sight of his second century. He reached the landmark off Fraser (his 200 coming off 254 balls in 317 minutes), and the Oval crowd rose to applaud one of the finest innings seen at the Oval in many years. Almost unnoticed, De Silva at tea was calmly approaching a 17th Test hundred.

Shortly after tea, Jayasuriya's superb innings ended, when he nicked a ball from Hollioake via his gloves to Stewart. He had scored 213 out of 328, with 34 boundaries. This brought in Ranatunga, who accompanied de Silva to his hundred, made with the greatest ease and without a chance. The two experienced Sri Lankans steered their side to the slenderest of first innings leads, with 7 wickets still remaining, and England may yet have to bat out a final day against the Sri Lankan spinners.

Day 4: England face long struggle to save match

An overcast morning saw the Oval near full with another large crowd who watched an excellent session for England, who not only slowed the Sri Lankan scoring rate, but took 4 wickets. Gough set the Sri Lankans back on their heels with two early wickets in two balls, Ranatunga and Tillakaratne both lbw to identical in-swinging deliveries. Hick dislocated a finger when he dropped a very hard chance from Kaluwitharana, but was able to resume later. Both bats were somewhat subdued, at least compared to the previous day's fireworks. Kaluwitharana fell to Cork, trying to force the pace, and hitting a catch to Crawley at short-extra who held it on the second attempt. Sri Lanka passed their previous highest total against England, then the landmarks of 500 and de Silva's 150. Hollioake took the prized wicket of de Silva with a ball that moved away fractionally to take the edge. Perera in his first test innings, and Dharmasena took Sri Lanka to lunch, but the session yielded only 72 runs

Perera had shown signs of batting talent in the Emirates Triangular, and these were confirmed as, supported by the Sri Lankan tail, he made an unbeaten 43. The third lbw of the day accounted for Dharmasena, and Fraser took a second wicket when Wickramasinghe edged onto his stumps, but Muralitharan provided good support as the last wicket put on 59. Perera showed a wide range of shots, including a lofted drive for six off Fraser, and Muralitharan hit to effect with five boundaries in his 31. The partnership ended when Salisbury had Muralitharan caught behind, remarkably the first wicket to fall to a front-line England spinner in the 6 Tests of the summer. England were 146 behind on first innings.

After tea, Ranatunga gave the ball to his spinners immediately, even though only 7 overs were gone. Sri Lanka's hopes of winning took a leap forward when Butcher decided to try to play Muralitharan from 2 yards down the pitch and was easily stumped. Muralitharan was always going to be a tough proposition for the left-hander but this showed a lack of discipline at a time it was sorely needed. Muralitharan almost immediately struck again as Hick went back to his second ball and was lbw. England were in a precarious situation at 25/2 with almost a full session left in the day. James and Stewart adopted a policy of solid defence, with much use of the pads against Muralitharan. Ranatunga , with four spinners of varying types at his disposal, tried them all, but the England pair remained to the close, James having faced 125 balls for his 20, and Stewart, most uncharacteristically, 82 for his 15. England still need 92 to make Sri Lanka bat again, with 8 wickets left, and a full day to survive. Muralitharan remains the Sri Lankans' best hope of a first Test win on English soil.

Day 5: Magnificent Muralitharan caps Sri Lankan victory

Day 5: Lunch

England 116/5, 30 runs behind.

England resumed very much on the defensive, with preservation of wickets being the prime aim. The weather offered no hopes of salvation, the Oval bathed in sunshine. The one boundary of the first hour came thanks to Attapatu who gave up four overthrows. James' long innings (151 balls) ended when, after Muralitharan changed to the Vauxhall End, he edged a bat-pad catch to silly point. James maybe lacks the technique at Test level, but certainly showed character, and likely will be rewarded with the captaincy of the England A side this winter. Ramprakash opened his account with a square cut for four off Muralitharan, and appeared more comfortable than most against him. The critical wicket of Stewart fell to a brilliant piece of fielding, run out by a direct hit by Chandana (substituting for de Silva, off with an ankle injury incurred when he was hit by a drive back to him when bowling). England were still 53 behind with 6 wickets left. Stewart had batted with great patience for two and a half hours. Chancing quick runs at this stage of the match was poor judgement, yet in the next 30 minutes England survived two other near run-outs. Jayasuriya was bowling over the wicket, pitching outside leg, and the English bats used the inelegant, but effective method of using the pads alone to defend. He was getting some turn, and when he forced Crawley to play, he induced an edge to Jayawardene at slip, who put the chance down. Crawley and Ramprakash resisted until 5 minutes before lunch, when Muralitharan drew Crawley forward with a flighted off-break, beat his attempted push, and bowled him. England go into an early lunch 30 runs behind, and facing defeat.

Day 5: Tea

England 162/8

Any hopes England had of saving the match quickly evaporated when Muralitharan had Hollioake lbw to the first ball after the interval. Replays suggested he may have edged into the pad. Cork came in and took a more enterprising approach, only to give Muralitharan his 200th Test wicket, when he tried to sweep. Kaluwitharana took an excellent catch, making a lot of ground as the ball ballooned up from the back of the bat, then glove. Salisbury unwisely tried to play back to Muralitharan, lasting only 4 balls, as a big off break trapped him back in front of his stumps. Gough showed more determination, and England edged towards the 146 they needed to make Sri Lanka bat again. England decided on a policy of Ramprakash facing Muralitharan, refusing singles, but after 8 consecutive maidens, Ranatunga countered by switching bowlers. Gough looked uncomfortable against Muralitharan but survived. When Ramprakash played Muralitharan to third man for two, England finally were ahead. Muralitharan injured his bowling hand, stopping a fierce cut from Gough, and briefly had to leave the field. With the new ball, the shackles were loosed, both batsmen finding runs easier to come by against the seamers, and Ranatunga soon turned back to the spinners. At tea, England were ahead by just 16, and despite the stubborn resistance of Gough and Ramprakash, still have a long way to go to save this match.

Day 5: End

Sri Lanka won by 10 wickets

Ranatunga worked the changes with his bowlers, trying the little used off-spin of Jayawardene, and putting on Muralitharan as soon as he could bowl at Gough. Ramprakash brought up the 50 partnership with an on-drive. Muralitharan who by this stage had bowled more balls in the match than any other Test bowler since 1962, was starting to look tired, but no other bowler offered the same threat. With Ramprakash on 42, Muralitharan caught an edge with a sharply spinning off-break, snapped up by Tillakaratne at short-leg. Ramprakash had batted superbly, facing 220 balls. With the lead only 36, Muralitharan capped one of the greatest bowling performances seen in Tests by bowling Gough round his legs, his 9th wicket, and 16th of the match. Gough had lasted 133 balls, batting with much common sense.

On a sunny evening at the Oval, Sri Lanka were left with ample time to knock off the required runs, and Jayasuriya did so in style, with 24 off 17 balls, including a remarkable square cut six. A handsome, and well deserved victory for Sri Lanka, based on some fine batting, and a memorable performance by Muralitharan, a superb exhibition of spin bowling on a wicket that offered very little assistance.

Sri Lanka will look back on a successful tour of England, and have shown by their cricket and the large crowds they have drawn that they richly deserve more than the single test allotted to them. England's thoughts will be on tomorrow when the tour party for Australia will be announced, and this comprehensive defeat will mean that they will travel south with their confidence somewhat shaken.

Date-stamped : 30 Aug1998 - 22:26