Saturday, July 19, 2008
Day 3: England made to suffer by Jayasuriya and de Silva
(Cricinfo Match Bulletin)
By Scyld Berry
IT HAS not been the commanding performance which England needed before they set off for Australia. The batting of Sri Lanka's master stroke players, Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva, has made England's cricket look small beer, or perhaps rice-water, by comparison.
When England batted on the first two days, there was a whiff, or stench, of players playing for their tour places rather than focusing on winning the match in hand. For that failure England paid yesterday, as Sri Lanka rattled along without any manifestation of haste, and yet at the extraordinary rate of four runs an over on average and often more.
It was not as if the Sri Lankan batsmen - squat and powerful and yet beautiful timers - attacked England's bowling. They simply waited for the bad balls to arrive on one side of the perfect batting pitch or the other, and put them away with ease. If the England bowlers had a harsh time to help prepare them for Australian conditions, their fielders had little to do in the warm sunshine beyond trot to the confines to pick up the ball.
Jayasuriya and de Silva came together when England made the costly mistake of dismissing Sri Lanka's No 3, caught in the gully off a loose drive. However fine a batsman Mahela Jayawardene may be, it is inconceivable he could have matched the virtuosity of the batsmanship which ensued, and kept on ensuing, until Jayasuriya had made a double hundred and Sri Lankan supporters in the crowd, deprived for so long of a sight of their team in this country for being 'unfashionable', were almost drunk on the rice-water of it all.
Perhaps no other pair of Test batsmen in the world could have batted so brilliantly and for so long at so rapid a rate. Brian Lara and Carl Hooper might have matched the brilliance, but not the appetite of the Sri Lankans; Australians would not have allowed themselves such panache, not against England. Sachin Tendulkar, of course, could have surpassed the pair off his own bat, but Mohammed Azharuddin, as he is now in his dotage, does not care to undertake unduly long innings.
Jayasuriya scored the vast majority of his runs on the offside, and very few on the leg except when Ian Salisbury tempted him irresistibly to pull, and when he picked up Dominic Cork for six. As de Silva played second sitar to him, Jayasuriya was the power behind the Sri Lankans' plunder of 113 runs from 27 overs before lunch, and another 125 from 29 before tea. It was just as well for England that the pair were loath to do anything quicker than waddle between wickets.
De Silva started at speed, glancing his third ball for two, off-driving the next for four, and pulling his sixth for four, all off Angus Fraser, before throttling down to bat with maximum certainty. There was nothing new about Jayasuriya's batting in so much that he has made a Test score of 340 and Sri Lanka has never lacked for glorious shot-makers; the novelty lay in the patience which de Silva demonstrated, notably in the hour after lunch when he added two singles, though Jayasuriya so dominated the strike as well as the bowling in this hour that de Silva faced only 28 balls.
Jayasuriya had sped to 59 off 71 balls overnight. He picked up by crashing Darren Gough twice through the covers as the bowler felt the power of the Sri Lankan's forearms. Ben Hollioake's harrowing day began with nine runs from his opening over as de Silva glanced him and his partner slashed him over gully; the 50 stand came up from 39 balls when Jayasuriya cut Hollioake to the boundary, though cover was 50 yards deep.
When de Silva reached 23, he became the first of his countrymen to reach 5,000 Test runs and set about the next thousand as most of England's bowling offered everything save length and direction. As in the South African series, no matter how many bowlers England's selectors pick, there only ever seem to be three of them.
Jayasuriya's fifth Test 100 came from only 124 balls. As he pressed on to 213 from 278 balls - he was out in only the 80th over of the innings, a rate of scoring beyond the ken of previous generations of opening batsmen - records flowed to the Sri Lankans' credit. His stand of 243 with de Silva, in only 55 overs all told, was the highest for any Sri Lankan wicket against England, or for their third wicket against any country.