Henry Blofeld: Jayasuriya the haunted head of a shadow team

It is, to say the least, bizarre that a side who came to England after winning their last nine Test matches should have made so little impact.

The Sri Lankans are always likely to make more of their own sunny conditions than England in a damp May and June, but none the less they are well worth watching.

It is not their fault that their first three-match Test series in England should have coincided with the tribal obsession into which football's World Cup has turned. For all that, one would have thought that a side containing the most fascinating contemporary bowler in Muttiah Muralitharan and batsmen of the calibre of Mahela Jayawardene, Srinath Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva would still have packed in the crowds.

But after the first three days of the series at Lord's, when they tied England into knots, they have not lived up to their reputation. If Murali had been there to bowl at Lord's, the chances of England's batsmen saving the match would have been remote. If Sri Lanka had left Lord's one up, the confidence they would have gained would almost certainly have changed everything.

Victory then would have lifted the spirits and helped their captain, Jayasuriya, who has been lamentably short of runs, which has a debilitating effect on any side – think of England when Nasser Hussain and Michael Atherton went through lean patches.

Jayasuriya's batting has been so important to Sri Lanka historically, for he has scored his runs at such a pace at the start of the innings and thereby given bowling sides a big punch in the solar plexus immediately after the first bell from which they have often not recovered. His lack of runs in this series has therefore been a double blow, and now he has been forced to suffer the indignity of dropping himself down the order to number six.

The result of this is that Jayasuriya may have a job to hold on to the captaincy unless his side win the triangular one-day tournament. Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara are strong candidates for the succession, although it would be asking an awful lot of Sangakkara, who is only 24 and has also to keep wicket. Russel Arnold has been mentioned as well as a possible successor.

As often happens with touring sides who are down on their luck, discontent has taken hold, and this has not been helped by the management. This party has been presided over by the over-officious Chandra Schaffter, who has a mercurial temperament, a modest cricketing background, is over 70 and treats his charges like schoolchildren. Nothing is calculated to disrupt a dressing room faster. It was therefore not a shock when he was dismissed yesterday.

With all this going on, it is hardly surprising that the Sri Lankans are not at the moment doing themselves justice, and the sad follow- through is that they have found themselves playing to houses which are often less than half-full. Even the Australians at their best would not have deflected the attention from Beckham and Co, but perhaps they would have prompted cricket's faithful to make a stronger point against the constant encroachment of football upon the cricket season.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment