Sri Lanka hold out for draw in dramatic end to First Test
England denied victory after James Anderson resurrects dead match at Lord’s
England’s (left to right) Gary Ballance, Moeen Ali, Ian Bell, Joe Root and Alastair Cook react after Sri Lanka’s last-wicket pair survived to draw the first Test at Lord’s. Photograph: Philip Brown/Reuters
The first Test between England and Sri Lanka at Lord’s ended in the draw for which it appeared to be heading from the end of the first session when the green tint was revealed to be little more than smoke and mirrors. If only it were that simple, though, for in the end, it could scarcely have been closer.
One over of the match remained when, with two wickets to take, Stuart Broad bowled to Rangana Herath. The tension was immense. On a pitch that had emasculated bowlers throughout, five wickets had fallen in the final session and a bit, including the obdurate Angelo Mathews to Jimmy Anderson in the 87th over, and now the entire match hinged on this ultimate over. Broad, armed with a new ball in its 10th over, went round the wicket to the left hander and bowled short and into his body.
The batsman fended and the ball clipped his left, bottom glove and Matt Prior took a tumbling catch. Herath walked off immediately but had he chosen to seek a review he might have seen, as might have been the case in the Edgbaston Test of 2005, the offending hand not attached to the bat handle at the critical moment. He chose not to.
Now came the last man, Nuwan Pradeep. He ducked the first, flirted with and missed the next, and could not lay bat on the fourth which missed bat and stumps by a whisker. This time Broad went full and straight, the batsman prodded forward and the ball thudded into his front pad.
The appeal was roared, up went the umpire Paul Reiffel’s finger, and Broad wheeled away in celebration of what seemed a memorable victory. But Pradeep had felt what Reiffel had not seen: the ball had cannoned from his inside edge onto the pad, and his request for a review showed this.
England regrouped for the last ball. A good length now. Pradeep prodded and the ball found the edge, but the stroke had taken just enough weight from the ball for it to carry to second slip, but on the half volley only. So close, yet so far. It was how New Zealand must have felt in Auckland just over a year ago. Sri Lanka, asked to make 390 in the 90 overs of the day finished on 201 for nine, although they had given up any chase hours since.
What a game it proved in the end. Older readers may remember The Killing of Sister George, the 1968 film, in which Beryl Reid played a district nurse in a radio soap. Knowing that her character was to be killed off, she became uncooperative, and in her final scene, when she was supposed to have died, she would suddenly come back to life. This Test match has been Sister George (or if you prefer, Tony Hancock in The Bowmans) the match that every time it appeared to have flatlined, suddenly croaked into life again.
Until Anderson produced a spell of unquestioned brilliance either side of the tea interval on the final day, the game was as dead as a Christmas Carol doornail. The pitch appeared to have sucked the life out of the England bowlers no matter their industry, while Kumar Sangakkara had taken untroubled root during the past three hours and more and looked as if nothing short of a nuclear bomb would shift him.
Mahela Jayawardene was just booking himself in for his swansong innings at Lord’s, and the two teams, for all the endeavour of the past five days could prepare themselves for the trip up the M1 to Leeds and the second Test on Friday.
Then, with the tea interval only a few overs away, Anderson came on to bowl at the Pavilion end. All sorts had been tried to that point: fields were set that would not be found in any manual; Liam Plunkett and Chris Jordan thrashed the ball into the pitch and Broad ghosted in.
Broad had managed to remove Dimuth Karunaratne with the new ball after he had played too early at a short ball and fended it to short leg. Later Jordan flicked the glove of Kaushal Silva, although not until the little opener had survived a blow on the head from Plunkett that sent the ricochet as far as deep mid off, and he had made a tidy 57.
All the while, we waited for Jimmy. Anderson likes the ball to reverse.
Perhaps now they sensed, or saw, something in the condition of the ball after the hammering it has taken from the pitch. Immediately it started to shape a little for him. He started to hide the ball in his run, a sure sign: he does not want to telegraph his intention to the batsman by showing them orientation of the shiny side. In his second over, he made the ball just hold its line outside off stump to Jayawardene, and Prior tumbling, as he and his Sri Lankan counterpart have been made to do all match, took the catch. England went into the interval with just a glimmer of hope.
After the break Anderson was superb. Sangakkara had been flawless up to this point, prepared to go 38 balls without a run and 102 without adding a fourth boundary to his third. Now though he tried to force Anderson away off the back foot, and the underedge cannoned back onto his stumps.
Anderson punched the air as Sangakkara, one of the great batsmen of his generation, left this field for the last time. Larihu Thirimanne is less celebrated, indeed an Anderson bunny having already been dismissed by him five times in seven innings.
It took no time to add a sixth, as the bowler found the edge and Jordan, at second slip made the low catch seem easy. The game had been resuscitated.