In defeating England by six wickets in the third one-day international, Sri Lanka betrayed one of the cardinal principals of cricket. They put the desires of the individual above the needs of the team.
It is easy to become Blimpish about this. The tourists still won, deservedly, with plenty to spare and their 21-year-old batsman, Dinesh Chandimal, reached the hundred he so clearly craved. But until he eventually clubbed a six over long-on to reach the milestone it had looked awful.
Sri Lanka might have won the match earlier but Chandimal and partner Angelo Mathews were conspiring to ensure the target was not reached before Chandimal reached his hundred. Mathews – a dasher – faced 21 balls and did not score from 20 of them. In the 47th over he played out a maiden.
Somehow, it went against the very spirit of the game, about which the Sri Lankans' eminent wicketkeeper-batsman and former captain, Kumar Sangakkara spoke movingly in the annual Cowdrey Lecture last night. Chandimal allowed himself to be persuaded no doubt because the match was at Lord's, but it was precisely because it was at Lord's that the transgression was the greater.
Alastair Cook, England's captain, said: "It was different. I've never seen that before. You'll probably have to ask them exactly what they were doing, although I think it's quite clear. They're perfectly entitled to do it if they want. It's just slightly strange and you never know, the cricketing gods might look down in a bit of disgust."
Indeed it was and the nonsense came to end when Tillakaratne Dilshan, Sri Lanka's captain, becoming concerned on the balcony, sent out a replacement bat (and a message). Next ball Chandimal biffed his six and had his hundred.
There is a precedent involving England. At Edgbaston in 1999, Alex Tudor, in the third of his 10 Test matches, went in as nightwatchman. The following day he was still there as England closed in on victory against New Zealand. They achieved it by seven wickets and Tudor was 99 not out.
It would have a simple task for he and his partner Graeme Thorpe to orchestrate the hundred. Everybody felt much better they had not done so. As for Chandimal, his name will not go on the Lord's dressing-room honours board. That distinction is reserved for Test match hundreds only.Reuse content