The third and final Test of the England v Sri Lanka series came to an end in classic English fashion with rain stopping play. The Test was perfectly poised for an exciting day five at the home of cricket. Sri Lanka’s openers had lasted through the night. With 10 wickets in hand and one of the best pitches on offer, the game was still (sort of) in the balance.
The lead up to the series had not been favourable for the visitors. They faced a second rate attack in Essex in their first warm-up game (where they were still bested by an 18 year old on day one). On day two, fast bowler Dhammika Prasad (who had knocked over England in 2014 to win them the series) injured himself just a day after former Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya had regaled their bowling attack calling it the best in the world. It was clear that Sri Lanka were missing him in their bowling attack as Leicestershire cruised past their total of 367 in the second warm-up. Things were not looking good.
The first Test of the series started tamely and as expected, England cruised to 49 without loss. A fantastic debut from Dasun Shanaka saw the hosts wobble as he took down England’s captain and wonder boy Alastair Cook and Joe Root. At 5-83 it was looking as though there was some truth to Jayasuriya’s claims. That was however the extent to which Sri Lanka showed up through the rest of the game. The 6th-wicket partnership between Jonny Bairstow and Alex Hales was worth more than Sri Lanka made in either innings.Only two batsmen scored 30+ runs. The visitors were wiped out by England’s dynamic duo, Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad with Anderson taking two five-wicket hauls. Sri Lanka lost the match by an innings and 88 runs.
The second Test of the series began in worse fashion than the first for Sri Lanka. Not only were they were missing their new star Shanaka but they were missing another seasoned quick in Dushmantha Chameera who also fell to injury. Angelo Mathews’ men picked off wickets here and there but England were cruising. It seemed Sri Lanka were waiting for wickets rather than taking them. They fielded poorly on the second day dropping more than a few catches and leaking runs. Seven of the English batsmen played with strike rates above 50 and Moeen Ali scored 155* to guide the hosts to 498/9 where they declared.
Sri Lanka barely responded. It seemed the usual fighting spirited Sri Lanka were still on the plane to England and hadn’t yet arrived. Again only one batsman scored above 30 and they were all out for 101. Sri Lanka were once again forced to follow-on for the second time in a row. However it appeared their plane arrived just in time for the second innings. Kaushal Silva, Angelo Mathews and Rangana Herath all scored 50s and a spirited century from Dinesh Chandimal forced England to bat again. The hosts only needed 80 to win but Sri Lanka’s second innings score of 475 gave England something to thing about.
The third and final Test was Sri Lanka’s chance to save face. Save themselves from a 3-0 whitewash. Once again it was a wobbly start from England with the out of form Nick Compton failing to get runs again and possibly playing his last international Test. It was Jonny Bairstow who saved the day for England and made up for some of his fumbles behind the stumps (but not before Sri Lanka dropped him and gave him the chance to). Bairstow went on to make 167* and pulled England to another daunting total of 416.
Opener Dimuth Karunaratne finally turned up to the series and along with Silva they put on an opening partnership of 108. They ended day two on a very respectable 162/1. The game was still in the balance. However there wasn’t much more fight from the other batsmen on day three as England steamed ahead and bowled Sri Lanka out for 288. Day three brought some interesting debates back to the table about DRS as Alex Hales was given a reprieve by a mistaken no-ball. It was a poor decision against the visitors. They had already dropped Hales twice and once again his wicket eluded them. England declared on 233/7 and left Sri Lanka with 12 overs to face before close of play on day four. Sri Lanka’s openers once again saw out the overs and left the team with 10 wickets in hand and a target of 362.
It could have been a marvelous day five at Lords had the sun come out. Only 12.2 overs were bowled and both sides appeared to know the Test was going nowhere during them. Rain continued to pour through the day and the grey clouds did not budge for a result.
Sri Lanka will feel they had a lot of misfortune through the series with the injuries and the bad reviews but they have a lot of work to do before their next international series.