From the archives: England v Sri Lanka classic Tests
We look back at some previous meetings
By Graeme Mair
Last Updated: 08/07/14 9:17am
England's Test summer starts at Lord's on Thursday with the first of two matches against Sri Lanka.
It may be one of Test cricket's newer rivalries, dating back to just 1982, but there has since been no shortage of drama, controversy and outstanding performances during the 26 subsequent meetings between the two sides.
Just the start
Sri Lanka welcomed England to the P Saravanamuttu Stadium in Colombo for their maiden Test match in February 1982 and it was immediately clear they had what was required to thrive at the highest level. Spinners Derek Underwood and John Emburey took 14 wickets between them as England - whose team was captained by Keith Fletcher and included Graham Gooch, David Gower, Ian Botham and Bob Willis - emerged the victors by seven wickets. But it was a competitive match throughout with England at one stage reduced to 40-3 in reply to Sri Lanka's 218, which had been underpinned by 65 from Ranjan Madugalle, who is now one of the ICC's top match referees. Gower bailed out the tourists with 89 to see them into a slender first-innings lead and Emburey's 6-33 ensured England faced a run chase of only 171, which Chris Tavare made light work of with 12 fours in his 85.
The return fixture took place two years later at Lord's and this time Sri Lanka's batsmen dominated a high-scoring draw. Sent in by England captain Gower, Sri Lanka opener Sidath Wettimuny batted throughout the first two days making 190, his country's record score at the time. Duleep Mendis scored a contrasting century - his 111 came in just over three hours and included 11 fours and three sixes - before Sri Lanka declared at 491-7. Allan Lamb's 107 was the top score as England made 370 in reply by stumps on day four, meaning a draw was by now almost inevitable. Sri Lanka batted throughout the final day, Wettimuny's opening partner Amal Silva helped himself to a maiden Test century and Mendis again provided some middle-order fireworks, hammering 94 at almost a run-a-ball before being one of Botham's six wickets.
Sri Lanka's maiden win in England came in the one-off Test at the end of the 1998 summer. Alec Stewart's men came into the match on a high after beating South Africa 2-1 over five Tests and started well, piling up 445 in their first innings after being sent in to bat at The Oval, including centuries for both Graeme Hick and John Crawley, who were engaged in a 'bat-off' for a place on the winter Ashes tour. But Sri Lanka dominated from the moment they started their reply on the second evening, opener Sanath Jayasuriya leading the way with 33 fours and a six in his 213. Aravinda de Silva also helped himself to 152 as Sri Lanka were finally all out for 591 on the fourth afternoon, a first-innings lead of 146. Muttiah Muralitharan - who had worked his way through almost 60 overs for figures of 7-155 in the first innings - then took centre stage. The spinner bowled another 54.2 overs in the second innings, this time claiming 9-65 as England were bowled out for 181, leaving Sri Lanka a target of 36 to complete the win. Muralitharan's match figures of 16-220 remain the fifth best in Test history.
The high-water mark of Nasser Hussain's England captaincy came with series wins in Pakistan and Sri Lanka on the 2000-01 winter tours. The 2-1 victory in Sri Lanka was all the more impressive as it came after the tourists had been hammered by an innings and 28 runs in the series opener in Galle. Darren Gough's eight wickets in Kandy a fortnight later helped England to a three-wicket win and set up a winner-takes-all decider at Colombo's SSC. Muralitharan - who had yet to fully develop his doosra - was kept in check, particularly by left-handers Marcus Trescothick and Graham Thorpe. The final Test was Thorpe's finest hour, an unbeaten 113 in the first innings followed by 32 not out on a disintegrating pitch as England scrambled to a target of 74 with six wickets down.
England pulled off a final-day mugging in Cardiff in 2011, bowling out Sri Lanka for 82 in 24.4 overs, eight of the wickets going down in the final session of day five. There was little indication of what was to come when a Jonathan Trott double hundred and centuries from Alastair Cook and Ian Bell saw England up to 496-5 in reply to Sri Lanka's first-innings 400. Rain had taken large chunks of time out of the game and there seemed little prospect of a positive result when the players arrived at a wet Swalec Stadium for day five. Eventually conditions cleared to allow a restart in the afternoon and England, who declared on their overnight position, made up for lost time with Graeme Swann and Chris Tremlett doing most of the damage. Sri Lanka had seemed in little trouble on 33-2 in their second innings at tea, with experienced duo Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene at the crease. But four wickets - including both Sangakkara and Jayawardene - went down in three overs early in the evening session and the tail collapsed quickly to hand England victory by an innings and 14 runs - an advantage they turned into a 1-0 series win thanks to draws in the remaining two Tests.
Pietersen on the attack
Kevin Pietersen ended a run of poor form by producing one of his greatest innings in Colombo in 2012. England came into the match on the back of four straight Test defeats, whitewashed 3-0 by Pakistan in the Middle East and going down by 75 runs in Galle the previous week. Pietersen was averaging 12.5 in Tests during the winter to that point but hammered 151 - including 16 fours and six sixes - to earn England a big first-innings lead at the P.Sara Stadium. Graeme Swann finished with 10 wickets in the match and Pietersen's 42 not out off 28 balls saw England to a target of 94 on the final day to earn a share of the series.