Sri Lanka 521-5 dec & 5-1 Sussex 262: Shadow of Jayasuriya hangs over Rayner's greatest day

Behind the scenes all hell is probably being let loose. Such a state of affairs is customary in Sri Lankan cricket. But to the naked eye these tourists look as happy as Larry, all smiles allied to application.

What it will mean when they pitch up for the Second Test is at least questionable (not much may be the answer), but the spring in their step at Hove was unmistakable. Not only did they escape from the First Test with the series still at 0-0 but they have also thoroughly enjoyed themselves in pummelling weak opposition by the coast in the past three days.

Having dismantled the Sussex bowlers, they skewered their batsmen yesterday before diluting their bowling attack. Sri Lanka scored 521 for 5 declared and in reply Sussex were at one point 98 for 6. This is the sort of imbalance that is inevitable when counties, for whatever reasons, field a team containing five men who have played one County Championship match between them, three of whom are making their first-class debut.

Meaningless then, except in two (fairly important) ways. The quintet of young Sussex men will have seen it as a way of enhancing their careers, an aspiration achieved spectacularly in one case yesterday.

Oliver Rayner, batting at number eight, came in after the initial collapse and became the first Sussex player to score a hundred on his first-class debut since 1920.

Sri Lanka may have yearned for stronger opposition but they have scored runs and taken wickets aplenty, not bad things for cricketers to do any time. They are still left with two selection conundrums, one about who should open the batting, the other about who should open the bowling. Not inconsequential then.

The former decision is connected to evidence that the country's cricket does not always reach Larry levels of happiness. Sanath Jayasuriya retired from Tests two months ago. Two weeks ago, he was persuaded by the new chairman of selectors, Ashantha de Mel, apparently with the involvement of the President, to rescind that decision and join a tour showing signs of becoming beleaguered.

Then, somehow, Sri Lanka earned a draw at Lord's. Things changed. The result and the gritty manner in which it was achieved strengthened the hand of the coach, Tom Moody, who has made much about looking to the future.

Moody was sufficiently emboldened not to select Jayasuriya for this match, meaning he could not possibly play in the Edgbaston Test, having not batted since his supposed valedictory Test in April (unless, of course, the President decrees otherwise). While he was reluctant to talk about it yesterday it was a brave gesture on Moody's part.

With Jayasuriya not involved, the Sri Lankans would still have to decide between Michael Vandort and Jehan Mubarak to accompany Upul Tharanga. Vandort was favourite to open at Lord's before he bagged a pair against England A, but then Mubarak failed twice. You could see the case for Jayasuriya, especially with Vandort failing again in Sri Lanka's second innings yesterday.

Moody was more forthcoming on the bowling front. He said that both Lasith Malinga (Malinga the slinger) and Nuwan Zoysa were in contention. "We have to do something to give us more variation after what happened at Lord's," he said.

On reflection, Malinga with 54 wickets in 15 previous Tests, should have played. He is expensive but also quick and unorthodox. On the other hand, had he been batting at Lord's the draw might have been unattainable. But his 5 for 79 yesterday, albeit against novices, might have swung the vote his way again.

Either way, it will be much more serious than the proceedings yesterday. After breaching the early Sussex batting, the tourists felt able to give a bowl to both non-bowlers Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, who as captain and vice-captain might have had something to do with them being introduced into the attack.

Still, a debut century is not to be sniffed at, especially when so many had failed. Rayner, a 20-year-old off spinner who has had trouble with his action, hit the ball as clean as a whistle and was unafraid to be adventurous. At 6ft 5in he was on the front foot most of the time. His hundred took 132 balls and contained 12 fours and a six. He will never forget it and nor should he. When he was out Sussex were still 260 behind. Many things could be said about it but you could never be sure you were watching a proper match.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
News
newsAstonishing moment a kangaroo takes down a drone
Life and Style
Duchess of Cambridge standswith officials outside of the former wartime spy centre in Bletchley Park
tech
News
people
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

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'