Sri Lanka were beaten in the second Test, and the series too went the host’s way, but the visiting ‘Lions’ salvaged some of their lost pride by getting their batting right at Chester-Le Street in Durham.
If Sri Lanka were whipped in the first Test, they showed they still had enough courage and nerve when they dug deep into their resources. Skipper Angelo Mathews proved he is a master at managing the human resources given to him when he rallied around his batsmen and made them post a respectable score of 475 in the second innings. Other than for one batsman, the rest made creditable double figure scores, with Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal (126), Milinda Siriwardene and Rangana Herath shinning with the bat on a tour where the host team has stuck to swing and pace as its bowling weapons. For the record, Sri Lanka lost the second Test by 9 wickets and the first Test by an innings and 88 runs.
Now comes the Lord’s challenge, a venue which makes any player in the world get very serious about the cricket he plays. The Sri Lankans comprise a bunch of eager hopefuls who have been presented with the challenge of rebuilding a team that’s in transition. The messages coming from Colombo over the last couple of days have not encouraged the players in England doing national duty. Tillakaratne Dilshan has made himself unavailable for the shorter version of the game while pace bowler Nuwan Kulasekera has announced his retirement from Test cricket. Apart from these little obstacles, we also saw the reporting of Shaminda Eranga because the umpires saw something suspect in his action. What would be the next bad news about Sri Lanka cricket?
It was encouraging to see the ‘Lions’ fighting their way back into the game in the second Test with the bat, all which was possible because they started using their feet and improved their running in-between wickets. Lords holds special memories for Sri Lanka with regard to batting with past players like Sidath Wettimuny, Duleep Mendis, Amal Silva, Marvan Atapattu, Mahela Jayawardane, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara and Mathews, having had the honour of scoring centuries.
While England celebrated the unassuming Alastair cook’s feat of scoring 10,000 Test runs, Sri Lanka patted the back of their veteran spinner Rangana Herath as he joined the 300 wicket takers’ club.
Players like Herath must be hailed for the humble beginnings he had in the sport and for going the distance in test cricket. He is now depended upon to play the role which Muttiah Muralitharan once played as Sri Lanka’s main spin bowler. But Herath has gone one step ahead of Murali. He can be now depended upon to chip in with the bat too when the Sri Lankan tail is expected to wag.
Lords has been a batsmen’s paradise despite the slope across the field which causes deviation and bounce of the ball apart from offering movement to the red cherry, when in flight.
One just has to go back in time to the Test series in 2014, the last occasion they featured in a test at Lords, where Sri Lanka did well to earn a draw. Sri Lanka, set a victory target of 389, managed to salvage a draw when their last pair hung on till the end. Sri Lanka won the two Test series 1-0.
The wicket at Lords can offer batsmen a bagful of runs, but England’s pace battery comprising Jimmy Anderson, Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad can continue to be menacing and silence the host team batsmen. Sri Lanka can’t relax nor take their eyes off their opponents for a second. The ‘Lions’ can’t be overwhelmed by the Lord’s crowd when they step out there to play. Everybody will be watching how they fare at the ‘home of cricket’.