Sri Lanka send England home in shame

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The Independent Online
ENGLAND tumbled humiliatingly out of cricket's World Cup yesterday after being trounced by Sri Lanka in the quarter finals with nine overs and five wickets to spare. The loss may have shocked some, but to many it was simply the latest proof of England's decline.

It wasn't long ago that people were bemoaning the fact that too much one-day cricket was being played in England and that this was detrimental to performances in the Test arena. If yesterday's result is anything to go by, it hasn't done our one-day game any good either.

By contrast Sri Lanka, a country only awarded full Test status 14 years ago, have progressed at an alarming rate. After looking hard at the rules, they have come up with an exciting way of playing in what had become a sterile format.

But instead of owning up to England's backwardness and lack of adventure, the England captain was more than a little begrudging yesterday. Of Sri Lanka's dynamic opener Sanath Jayasuriya, who set up yesterday's win with a glittering innings of 82 off 44 balls, he remarked merely: "The rules have been made for a player like him."

Mike Atherton, who has neither played nor led with distinction since the Cape Town Test, which England lost, is clearly feeling the pressure and he plans a short break.

What can be done? The time-honoured TCCB response to crises in English cricket is to set up a working party. At present three are in operation.

Yesterday's humiliation marks a total reversal of fortunes since the 1987 World Cup, when England thrashed Sri Lanka in Peshawar. And yet, judging by the three top items on the agenda for the TCCB's spring meeting, you wouldn't think it was of the slightest concern. Instead, the following were discussed: number of overs to be bowled in the last hour during Championship matches; the claiming of the extra half an hour during Championship matches; and the timing of the tea interval in Championship matches. No wonder England keep losing.

Match report, page 32