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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

James Anderson falls in penultimate ball - Sri Lanka wins Test Series in England

On 24th June 2014, I waited somewhat impatiently till 11 pm IST – around 10 overs remained – wanted Lankan lions to roar .. went to sleep posting one….this morning upon getting up, first checked to see the scores – it was Lanka win by 100 runs – giving them a record win – their  first Series win in England – lot remains unsaid of the tension and drama that unfolded.

Bandula Warnapura their first Captain would have dreamed for this to happen.   Sri Lanka have been fighters – I saw them, particularly Duleep Mendis and Roy Dias do this at Chepauk in 1982.  They were 11/2 – Mendis made 105; India amassed 566/6 – declared – openers were out in huff, Mendis again made 105; Roy Dias 80 – both stroke-filled … match was drawn .. Mendis eventually captained them to their first ever victory in Tests

Yesterday at Headingley in the 2nd Investec Test – Lanka closed a rather tense match; we have seen many last ball finishes in ODIs, and much more in T20s – more so in IPL – especially if Dhoni were to finish.  In what could a great advertisement for Test Cricket, with just 2 balls remaining for close of play,  pacer Shaminda Eranga, banged in a short ball to Jimmy Anderson, which ballooned from his glove to Rangana Herath perched on the leg side. As the ball was caught, the Sri Lankan team engulfed the bowler, a writhing heap of humanity on the floor. The batsman crouched in dismay – you cannot say Anderson failed …  Anderson and Moeen Ali had 122 deliveries to survive to save a match that had seemed a doomed cause for England 24 hours previously – they played out 120 of them.  Moeen Ali enhanced his reputation with a maiden century that was both steadfast and enchanting, finishing unbeaten on 108;  Anderson had faced 55 balls without scoring as England were all out for 249.

Twenty overs and two balls had remained in the match when Anderson joined Moeen, who had 88. Maiden overs were played out and Angelo Mathews started to ring his bowling changes.  What a stage – considering that England started the day with 57 for 5 – 350 the target looked unachievable – Lankan win was on the cards – but the way it came made many hearts miss their beats.

The brief score card would read : Sri Lanka 257 (Sangakkara 79, Plunkett 5-64) and 457 (Mathews 160, Jayawardene 79, Sangakkara 55, 4-112) and England 365 (Robson 127, Ballance 74, Bell 64, Mathews 4-44, Eranga 4-93) and 249 (Moeen 108*, Prasad 5-50) by 100 runs – the statistics would never reveal that the win came at a time when hopes were almost abandoned.  An indomitable backs-to-the-wall display by Moeen had come so close to sparing England: an unbeaten 108, unblemished even, made from 281 balls. England's last five wickets had clung on for all but two balls of the final day. Pride had been salvaged, perhaps a captain had been spared too, but it is Sri Lanka who can celebrate a special moment in their Test history. Sri Lanka's last pair held out for five balls in the first Test at Lord's. This time the task was much harder for Moeen and Anderson: 20.2 overs. Even in Cardiff, when Anderson and Monty Panesar famously held off Australia in 2009, they only saw out 11.3. This time Anderson summoned a heroic 55-ball nought, all signifying nothing.

Lankans celebrate – photo credit :
Cricinfo writes that the crowd was sparse - Yorkshire had folded its arms in condemnation, convinced like all but the most incorrigibly optimistic that England's abject collapse to 57 for 5, well adrift of a target of 350, had sealed their fate.  Moeen’s century came with half-an-hour remaining, flicking Nuwan Pradeep off his pads, but it had always felt like an afterthought in an innings where he appeared entirely consumed by England's survival. Even in defeat, there should be no doubt who will be the recipient of England's annual Beard of the Year award - and, if that is one of the most frivolous awards around, this time it would have a more serious message. There were two umpiring reviews for Moeen to survive along the way, both optimistically sought by Sri Lanka for leg-side catches. On 52, a delivery from Rangana Herath, the left-arm spinner, found its way to leg slip, on 71 Eranga flicked his thigh pad on the way through to the wicketkeeper, but he was confident that his survival chances were 100%.

England set the tone for the final day by making only 26 in nearly 18 overs during a drizzle-interrupted morning. Prior became a fifth victim for Sri Lanka's fourth-day hero, Dhammika Prasad, a well-directed ball into his body and a deflection which was expertly snapped up by Kaushal Silva low down at short leg - not the first time he has fallen in such a fashion. Indifferent light became Sri Lanka's next problem as the emergence of a blinking Stuart Broad coincided with the first appearance of the umpires' light meters. Sri Lanka were forced to resort to Mahela Jayawardene's little-used offspin - six wickets to his name in 145 Tests - but, while the restrictions were in operation, Broad's 24-ball nought ended when Herath straightened one to have him lbw.

Sri Lanka, with this win, have now won seven Test matches outside the subcontinent, excluding Tests in Zimbabwe. Veterans Sangakkara and         Mahela Jayawardene contributed alongside youngsters.  Captain Angelo Matthews stole the show with that epic 2nd innings 170.  With this win, Lankans have a record that they have been their pipe-dream…… for India the memory of the previous tour would haunt …  In 2011, India lost 0-4 …… in 1971 India won the Series but lost so poorly in the next in 1974 (including that lowly 42) – will India salvage honours in this tour in 2014 when we play 5 tests ?

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

25th June 2014.

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