Mahela Jayawardene last night mocked England’s performance against Sri Lanka and said Alastair Cook’s players were unable to handle the pressure of international cricket.
Sri Lanka need five more wickets today to win the Second Test at Headingley and take the series 1-0, which would be their first Test series win in this country.
The ill-feeling between these teams has been present throughout the summer. Talks were needed between the respective camps to calm the waters after spinner Sachithra Senanayake’s bowling action was reported by the officials during a one-day international at Lord’s on 31 May, while England were furious when the same player controversially “Mankaded” Jos Buttler at Edgbaston three days later.
Even though neither player is involved in the Test series, Jayawardene appeared to relish the chance to stick the knife into England, questioning their tactic of bowling short here, as well as their mental strength. The home side resume on 57 for 5 today, trailing by 292 runs, after their inadequacy and Sri Lanka’s brilliance turned the match around on day four.
“We’ve seen that under pressure they’re not quite up to it,” said the Sri Lankan batsman. “They have a few young guys to come in and they will get some [verbal stick]. They got a bit when they came out to bat in the second innings.
“We were telling a couple of their batsmen that England’s idea of hurting us and hitting us on the head [with short-pitched bowling] probably doesn’t work. Hitting a good length and getting the ball to do a bit means that, one way or the other, batsmen will nick it.
“We took a few hits to the body but after the game we’ll have a good laugh about it. Their defensive tactics in the field showed they were worried and Angelo Mathews batted really well in that situation. There was a lot of short stuff which we managed to get away and score a few runs.
“We were quite comfortable with the way we handled them,” he added. “We’ve played in the right spirit. Even coming into the series we were braced for some of the backlash and we held ourselves together to come back strongly.”
Jayawardene, a former captain, also had some advice for England’s embattled leader, Cook. These have been a grim couple of days for Cook, who also hit back at Shane Warne before the Test for what he believes to be unfair criticism.
Jayawardene added: “I feel for him but it doesn’t help when you have arguments with commentators and past cricketers. That is something you can’t control.”
Should England lose this game, as is almost certain, his position will be questioned. The 5-0 Ashes whitewash in the winter led to the departure, for varying reasons, of Kevin Pietersen, Graeme Swann and Jonathan Trott, as well as coach Andy Flower.
Cook was retained but is under huge pressure, especially after he dragged a ball from Dhammika Prasad on to his stumps to spark a collapse from 39 without loss to 57 for 5.
But Ian Bell insisted: “Does he have the desire to carry on? Absolutely. As a captain, I don’t think he could have done anything differently in Sri Lanka’s second innings. We just didn’t execute our plans.”