Sangakkara spurns gilt-edged chance to put record straight

On American Independence Day next month, Kumar Sangakkara will deliver the Cowdrey Spirit of Cricket Lecture at Lord's. It will be full of wit and wisdom, aperçus and aphorisms because Sangakkara is a clever, articulate and thoughtful chap.

It is fair to presume, even though Sangakkara is the first cricketer still to be playing at the top level to give the lecture, that it will not contain advice on how visiting batsmen might go about making runs either at Lord's or in England generally. Sangakkara, the third-ranked batsmen in the world, has an inexplicably dreadful Test record in this country.

The third day of the second Test offered him a marvellous opportunity to atone at last. He had played 14 innings previously in this country, never made more than 66 and averaged a little more than 27.

But now the pitch was as benign as he could ever expect in English conditions, Sri Lanka were in the ascendant and the man at the other end already had a hundred to his name.

For a few overs, Sangakkara was circumspect. There was one scintillating cover drive to the boundary, but this clearly meant a lot to him. Then came the second new ball. The fourth delivery with it was a beauty from Chris Tremlett, going across Sangakkara, drawing him into the shot, swinging away late and taking the edge. He was gone again, for 26.

It will be of scant consolation to Sangakkara that other significant batsmen have had trouble in England. The great Australian batsman, Doug Walters, came on four tours of this country and never made more than 88 in 30 innings. Majid Khan, the supremely elegant Pakistan player, also came four times and, although he made 98 at The Oval in 1984, his average was in the low twenties.

Part of this, perhaps the main part, is that it is different batting in England than anywhere else. Other players of present or recent vintage, notably Jacques Kallis and Matthew Hayden, have discernibly worse records in this country than elsewhere. Sangakkara has three innings, one in this match, two in the third Test, to attempt to make some amends. One century would probably do for him now.

As for Lord's, so many illustrious recent players have failed to make the honours board with a century – Kallis, Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting to mention but a few. It might even rate a mention in the Cowdrey Lecture next month.

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