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England v Sri Lanka: The Facts

— 18 June 2014

The difficulty about writing a feature on Sri Lanka Tests at Headingley is that there have not been any previous such matches. So Sri Lanka are being welcomed to Headingley for the first time to play a Test Match.

The country was formerly called Ceylon. Although it gained independence in 1948 it did not change its name to Sri Lanka until 1972. Cricket had been played in Ceylon from at least the early 18th century and the first Ceylonese cricket club was formed in 1873 and was known as Colts CC. Cricket is very strong in schools especially Royal College in Colombo and St Thomas’s. The annual match is played at the P Saravanamuttu Stadium in front of a large crowd. Local papers had articles about team selection in schools’ cricket and this has made a significant contribution to the success of the Sri Lankan national side.

  • It was the custom of touring sides to and from Australia and New Zealand to call in at Colombo and play a match there. The Hon. Ivo Bligh’s side, setting off to regain the Ashes, was the first to do so in1882 and, as their boat had a collision on the way out, they returned to play a second match whilst it was being repaired.

    The MCC toured Ceylon in 1927 and on 5th February 1927 the initial first-class match was played there. In 1930 Maharaj Kumar of Vizianagram’s Indian tourists included both Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe as special guests. After World War II tours by Sri Lanka and visits to the country became more frequent. Michael Tissera led them to victory over Pakistan A and in 1965 they beat India in an unofficial Test. Anura Tennekoon succeeded Tissera as captain and led Sri Lanka into the inaugural 1975 Prudential World Cup where they played against West Indies, Pakistan and Australia (against whom they made 276 for four). In 1979 they won the ICC trophy for non-Test nations. In the full Prudential Cup that year they beat India who had Gavaskar, Bedi and Kapil Dev in their team. Prior to their Prudential matches they had embarked upon their first tour of England playing some of the counties starting on 12th May at Trent Bridge. During these years a number of Sri Lankans played first-class cricket in England. They had previously included FC de Saram who won two Blues at Oxford. He made 128 against the 1934 Australians batting at number three and was last out as Clarrie Grimmett took seven wickets in the innings, then he made 174 against Gloucestershire and 208 in a first-class match at Reigate Priory against HDG Leveson Gower’s XI. Gamini Goonesena played for Nottinghamshire and won four Blues at Cambridge hitting 211 in the 1957 Varsity match, and PI Pieris, an all-rounder from St Thomas’s won two Cambridge Blues. Clive Inman and Stanley Jayasinghe both played with distinction for Leicestershire.


    Sri Lanka became full members of the International Cricket Council on 21st July 1981. They had played a four-day match against Kim Hughes’s Australian tourists on May 7th and bowled them out for 124 with Ajit de Silva taking six for 36. In 1981 they made their second tour of England although they did not play a Test. I was present on the first day when they played a combined Oxford and Cambridge team at the Parks. JPC Mills made 111 but Sri Lankan spinners Ranasinghe, Kaluperuma and Wijesurya bowled well. Bandula Warnapura captained the tourists and Duleep Mendis, Sidath Wettimuny and Roy Dias were the outstanding batsmen.

    Sri Lanka’s first Test Match was against England on 17th February 1982 at the Saramatavannu Oval in Colombo. Sri Lanka made 218 against an attack comprising Botham, Willis, Allott, Emburey and Underwood – Madagulle made 65 and Ranatunga, then still at school, 54. England were bowled out for 223 with Gower making 89 and de Mel and DS and GRA de Silva sharing the wickets. In the second innings Sri Lanka managed only 175 of which Dias hit 77 and John Emburey took six for 36.

    Sri Lanka’s first victory in a Test Match came on 11th September 1985 in their 14th Test when they beat India at the Saravanamuttu Oval. They scored 385 as wicket keeper Amal Silva made 111, also catching eight and stumping one batsman, and Dias made 95. Rumesh Ratnayake took nine for 125 in the match. The first success against England came on 18th March 1993 when they won by five wickets at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo. Robin Smith made 128 of England’s 380 but Sri Lanka responded with 469, Tillekaratne scoring 93 and Aravinda de Silva 80. It was the bowling out of England for 228, with Warnaweera taking four for 98, that enabled Sri Lanka to win by five wickets as Jayasuriya hit his first ball for a winning six. At the time of writing England have won ten and Sri Lanka seven of their 26 Tests.

    On 17th March 1996 Sri Lanka won the World Cup, beating Australia by seven wickets in Lahore. Australia made a good start with Taylor and Ponting but the spinners Muralitharan, Dharmasena and de Silva took control along with Jayasuriya so from the 24th to the 49th over Australia hit only one boundary! Aravinda de Silva played the innings of his life with 107 not out and Asanka Gurusinha made 65. Arjuna Ranatunga, the captain who set his fields so well, was 47 not out when victory was secured. Shane Warne took none for 58. Sri Lanka had beaten England in the quarter-finals when Sanath Jayasuriya thumped 82 off 44 balls.


    Yorkshire have played Sri Lanka three times. In 1981 they met at Abbeydale Park. Play was only possible on the first day when Kevin Sharp made 116 out of 275 for five. In 1988 at Headingley there were hundreds for Martyn Moxon, Sharp again and Amal Silva hit 112. But the outstanding performance came from Graeme Labrooy who took six for 61 reducing Yorkshire to 18 for four and 41 for six before Richard Blakey, with 85 not out, and rain saved Yorkshire. In 1991 a high scoring match was drawn. Philip Robinson made 100 out of Yorkshire’s 304, Gurusinha hit 98, Jayasuriya 94 and Ratnayake 68 not out. In the second innings Simon Kellett added 109 not out to his 82 in the first. Mark Broadhurst took three for 69.

  • England v Sri Lanka One- Day Internationals at Headingley

    England and Sri Lanka have contested four times in One-Day Internationals at Headingley. Both nations have won two matches each with Sri Lanka having the upper hand in recent times winning their last two encounters in Leeds.

    Sri Lanka first played England on the ground in 1983 in a group match at the World Cup. A Bob Willis inspired side won the game by 9 wickets. Sri Lanka were bowled out for 136 with Lancastrian Paul Allott the pick of the seamers taking three for 41 runs from his 10.4 overs. In reply, England raced to their total in 24.1 overs with Graeme Fowler top-scoring with 81.

    More recently Sri Lanka have dominated proceedings and in their last two outings have scored over 300 runs each innings. In 2011 Mahela Jayawardene scored a brilliant 144 in his sides’ total of 309. Sri Lanka then bowled out England for 240 to win the game with four overs to spare. Five years earlier, in fantastic high-scoring game, England recorded 321 for 7 from their 50 overs with Somerset opener Marcus Trescothick top-scoring with 121. It looked certain that England would win, but in an incredible display of world-class batting Sri Lanka raced to their total with 13 overs to spare. Tharanga and Jayasuriya put on 286 for the first wicket – Tharanga ending on 109 and the hard-hitting Jayasuriya 152.


    Sri Lanka have played Test cricket on eight different grounds. As was previously mentioned, the first was the Saravanamattu Oval in Colombo. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu was the first president of the Board of Control of Cricket in Ceylon from 1935 until 1950. He was a civil servant and controller of rubber and tea. He was a Tamil and this ground is regarded as the centre for Tamil cricket. The ground at the time of the first Test comprised mostly single storey stands and there was a lovely view of it from a nearby hill.

    The main ground in Colombo is now the Sinhalese Sports Club with impressive accommodation for members and visitors and good facilities around the ground. On the days I was there it was very hot and Graham Thorpe was a real hero batting for five-and-a-half hours in the first innings. I stood beside the players’ entrance as he came in and have never seen a player more drained and exhausted. England bowled Sri Lanka out for 81 but then collapsed so Thorpe had to return to win the match. The other grounds in Colombo are the Colombo Cricket Club, where three Tests were played in the early days, and the Premadasa or Khetterama Stadium built especially for one day cricket.

    Kandy – up in the hills – is a place dedicated to the Buddhist faith and the Temple contains the sacred tooth of Buddha. There is a large lake near the Asgiriya ground. As you enter the ground it is no more than ordinary but when you climb into the stand there is the most beautiful outlook I have ever seen on a cricket ground with views of the wooded hills beyond. It is actually a school ground belonging to Trinity College and has many interesting buildings: the old pavilion, the old Trinity clubhouse and a well appointed new pavilion. You might get a parade of elephants at lunchtime. In these idyllic surroundings we saw an enthralling competitive Test match when Mahela Jayawardena hit 101, Trinity old boy Kumar Sangakkara made 95 and England captain Nasser Hussein 109. What we didn’t know, from our elevated position, was the extent of disgruntlement and dispute as a series of debatable umpiring decisions upset the players. I would advise people to go if possible but I believe matches in the city are being played at Pallekelle where a new ground has been built and named after Muttiah Muralitharan. The remaining venues are at Galle, where the ground suffered serious damage in the tsunami and which has a conspicuous fort and views of the Indian Ocean, and the Tyronne Fernando Stadium at Moratuwa.

  • Some Records ENGLAND v SRI LANKA

    in Test cricket
    at all venues


    Played 27, England won 10, lost 7 and drew 10.

    Highest innings totals

    England 575-9dec (JE Root 200*) Lord’s 2014

    England 551-6dec (KP Pietersen 158) Lord’s 2006

    Sri Lanka 628-8dec (TT Samaraweera 142) Colombo (SSC) 2013

    Lowest innings totals

    England 81 (WPUJC Vaas 4-28) Galle 2007/08

    Sri Lanka 81 (AF Giles 4-11) Colombo (SSC) 2000/01

    Highest individual innings

    England 203 IJL Trott Cardiff 2011

    Sri Lanka 213* DPMD Jayawardene Galle 2007/08

    Best bowling in an innings

    England 7-70 PAJ DeFreitas Lord’s 1991

    Sri Lanka 9-65 M Murlitharan The Oval 1998

    Best bowling in a match

    England 8- 95 (5-28 & 3-67) DL Underwood Colombo (PSS) 1981/82

    Sri Lanka 16-220 (7-155 & 9-65) M Muralitharan The Oval 1998

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