Sri Lanka broke a multitude of scoring records. For a couple of the most carefree hours each over seemed to bring a new landmark, but none of the statistics could convey the masterly control and panache of their strokeplay. The pitch was flat, the batting was mountainous, the bowling reached a molehill some time in the first half-hour and never left it. Sri Lanka were 446 for 3 at the close, one run ahead. They had scored 367 runs in the day; they had taken 50 overs fewer than England to reach parity and few of their strokes were other than sumptuous.
At the centre of the proceedings was the left-handed opener Sanath Jayasuriya. Like his side, Jayasuriya came on this tour with a reputation as an impudent, innovative one-day dasher. Neither his 340 nor his team's world record 952 last August (against India on a Colombo pitch which apparently bestows on The Oval the qualities of a minefield) could quite dispel the notion that the long haul of Test matches was not a natural environment. The innings of 213 with which he tormented England should ensure that particular canard is never raised again. It is unquestionable that Sachin Tendulkar is the best of all contemporary batsmen and that Brian Lara, on his wonderful days, is only a notch below. But Jayasuriya's timing, not to mention his voracious appetite, put him right up there. He is now one of only two current Test players to have scored both a triple and a double century.
His was the first double hundred to be made by a Sri Lankan against England, beating Sidath Wettimuny's 190 in 1984. It took a mere 278 balls, stretched only a few minutes short of six hours - which seemed like no time at all, made his fellow centurion, the quite captivating Aravinda de Silva, look pedestrian and probably ended the international career of the England leg-spinner Ian Salisbury. Jayasuriya was irresistible and insatiable, Salisbury could offer no resistance and by the end of his first 17 increasingly sad, wretched overs must have had quite enough. He came back to bowl seven more, which, at least, were treated less cavalierly.
Jayasuriya and Sri Lanka took 30 minutes or so to break into their stride, and an early wicket when Marvan Atapattu played a flat-footed drive to gully, where Ben Hollioake took a smart, well-judged catch to his left, could not have been a more false portent. De Silva came in and immediately essayed a leg-glance for two and an off-drive for four which were from the topmost drawer. They might have been a signal to his partner considering what happened next. Jayasuriya pulled hard and quickly, he square drove deliberately and precisely in the air and his glances were so fine he could have been engraving cut glass. Successive overs from the fall of the wicket brought six, nine, nine, eight and another nine, and Salisbury was not in the attack yet.
Alec Stewart had no option but to call upon him. This was his home pitch and if it was going to help anybody it would be somebody who could turn the ball. At first Salisbury came as close as anybody to stopping the Sri Lankans in their tracks. He bowled nine overs before lunch for 19 runs, he was driving himself on with every ball, flicking it urgently from hand with a corkscrew action as if to convince himself that he could indeed tweak it. At that point he had a foot on the plane to Australia.
After lunch he was immediately installed again at the Pavilion End. He was no match for the rampant Jayasuriya. At first he came round the wicket to both batsmen but there were, as so often, just too many bad balls. Salisbury punched his cap by way of self-admonishment, then came over the wicket, only to see Jayasuriya sweep him twice to long leg.
It was the end, Stewart had seen too much, the crowd, enraptured by the batting, were irritated. Salisbury was not the only English culprit but he was the most culpable because this was surely his final opportunity. At The Oval two years ago he bowled himself out of a tour with an indifferent display. He must have felt history repeating itself, but he must have known too that it was for the last time. Giving plane tickets away as he does he would never make a tout.
Between lunch and tea Jayasuriya scored 89 while de Silva made 25. Neither had made a century against England and in de Silva's case there was a definite air that he was not going to pass up the chance. Their partnership, a record for the Sri Lankan third wicket, had reached 243 off 54 overs when Jayasuriya,pulled a leg-side ball from Hollioake into Stewart's gloves. It was a fortuitous and welcome wicket, and if Hollioake can get more like that he will do for England.
De Silva eventually reached his hundred in the evening. It had taken him only 174 balls. He and his steely captain Arjuna Ranatunga put on an unbroken 118 and Ranatunga's seemingly bizarre decision to ask England to bat began to look like a master stroke.
Sri Lanka won toss
England - First Innings
M A Butcher c Jayasuriya b Wickramasinghe 10
S P James c and b Muralitharan 36
G A Hick c Kaluwitharana b Wickramasinghe 107
A J Stewart c Tillakaratne b Perera 2
M R Ramprakash c Jayawardena b Muralitharan 53
J P Crawley not out 156
B C Hollioake c Atapattu b Muralitharan 14
D G Cork b Muralitharan 6
I D K Salisbury b Muralitharan 2
D Gough c Kaluwitharana b Muralitharan 4
A R C Fraser b Muralitharan 32
Extras (b1,lb11,w2,nb9) 23
Fall: 1-16 (Butcher), 2-78 (James), 3-81 (Stewart), 4-209 (Ramprakash), 5-230 (Hick), 6-277 (Hollioake), 7-333 (Cork), 8-343 (Salisbury), 9-356 (Gough), 10-445 (Fraser).
Bowling: Wickramasinghe 30-4-81-2, Perera 40-10-104-1, Dharmasena 18- 3-55-0, Muralitharan 59.3-14-155-7 (nb8), Jayasuriya 11-0-38-0 (5-0- 12-0 4-0-18-0 2-0-8-0).
Sri Lanka - First Innings
S T Jayasuriya c Stewart b Hollioake 213
(346 min, 278 balls, 33 fours, 1 six; gloved attempted hook to wicketkeeper)
M S Atapattu lbw b Cork 15
(56 min, 26 balls, 1 four)
D P M Jayawardena c Hollioake b Fraser 9
(58 min, 40 balls flat-footed drive to gully)
P A de Silva not out 125
(363 min, 230 balls, 14 fours)
*A Ranatunga not out 50
(131 min, 90 balls, 7 fours)
Extras (b14, lb16, nb4) 34
Total (for 3, 478min,100 overs) 446
Fall: 1-53 (Atapattu), 2-85 (Jayawardena), 3-328 (Jayasuriya).
To bat: H P Tillakaratne, R S Kaluwitharana, G P Wickramasinghe, H D P K Dharmasena, M Muralitharan, S A Perera.
Bowling: Gough19-5-60-0 (5-0-18-0 5-2-21-0 5-3-2-0 4-0-19-0), Fraser 17-1-73-1 (3-0-15-0 4-1-17-1 3-0-12-0 3-0-6-0 4-0-23-0), Hollioake 15- 1-70-1 (nb1) (5-0-30-0 2-0-15-0 8-1-25-1), Cork 26-2-105-1 (nb3) (5-1- 14-1 6-0-26-0 6-1-33-0 2-0-6-0 7-0-26-0), Salisbury 24-7-82-0 (2-1-2-0 15-3-58-0 7-3-22-0), Ramprakash 5-0-24-0, Butcher 4-2-2-0 (one spell each).
Progress: Third day: 100 in 122 min, 26.5 overs. 150 in 159 min, 34.1 overs. Lunch 192-2 (Jayasuriya 113, de Silva 47) 47 overs. 200 in 223 min, 49.5 overs. 250 in 271 min, 61.3 overs. 300 in 312 min, 71.4 overs. Tea 317-2 (Jayasuriya 202, de Silva 72) 76 overs. New ball taken after 80 overs at 328-3. 350 in 372 min, 84.1 overs. 400 in 422 min, 95 overs.
Jayasuriya: 50: 72 min, 58 balls, 8 fours. 100: 161 min,124 balls, 17 fours. 150: 258 min, 212 balls, 24 fours, 1 six. 200: 317 min, 254 balls, 31 fours, 1 six.
De Silva: 50: 162 min, 87 balls, 8 fours.100: 295 min, 174 balls, 12 fours.
Ranatunga 50 : 123 mins, 84 balls, 7 fours, 1 six..
Umpires: E A Nicholls and D R Shepherd. TV Replays: J W Holder. Referee: Ahmed EbrahimReuse content