Best days of Sri Lankan Cricket

Sri Lanka vs England 2006 NatWest Series, one of the best series of Sri Lankan Cricket

LEEDS, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 01: The Sri Lankan team celebrate wioth the trophy after the fifth NatWest One Day International match between England and Sri Lanka at Headingley on July 1, 2006 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Tom Shaw/Getty Images)

The 2006 NatWest ODI series between Sri Lanka and England is one of most superlative series that Sri Lanka have had over the years. But one would also argue saying that England didn’t have their best players in the series; Vaughn out with a knee injury, Jones with a knee injury, Giles with a hip injury, Anderson with a back injury, Flintoff with an ankle injury and both Collingwood and Pieterson getting injured after the 3rd ODI. One would also say that the Series between Sri Lanka vs Pakistan in 1999 which Sri Lanka won 3 -0, the series between Sri Lanka vs South Africa which Sri Lanka won 5 – 0 in 2004 or the 2014 England series which Sri Lanka won 5 – 2 has more weight than the England tour, but apart from the Pakistan series the other two were played at home.

Mahela Jayawardena’s first series as Captain, a series in England soil after 4 years, with spiteful memories in the previous outing losing the test series 2 – 0 and the Triangular ODI series which included India, Cold and breezy conditions and different pitches than of Sri Lankan conditions and the pitches. It was indeed an uphill task for the Lions. Winning the series 5 – 0 showed how strong the team was back then. Upul Tharanga in fine form, so elegant and classical, Sanath Jayasuriya in counter-attacking and killer mode, Mahela Jayawedena and Kumar Sangakkara as pleasing to the eye as ever ensured that the top four scored big runs. Be it defending 250 or chasing 320 the Lions did it with utmost ease and won the games so convincingly.

Let’s look at how the five ODI’s happened.

1st ODISri Lanka 257 for 9 in 50 overs (Tharanga 120, Jayawardena 24, Harmison 3 – 52) beat England 237 for 9 in 50 overs (Dalrymple 67, Trescothick 67, Malinga 3 – 27, Dilhara 3 – 51) by 20 runs.

The first ODI of the series was played at the ‘Home of Cricket’, yes, Lords was the venue for the first game. The England Skipper Andrew Strauss won the toss and without any hesitation he decided to bowl first. His decision proved to be a wise one when Sri Lanka could only manage 257 runs in their allotted 50 overs. Opening the batting was your favourite pair; Sanath Teran Jayasuriya and Warushavithana Upul Tharanga. Those were the best days of young Upul Tharanga, he was merely 21 and promised a lot after his debut 10 months back and he showcased how dense and unruffled he was in this innings. He drew, he cut and again he drew the ball on his way to an astonishing, fortitude innings of 120 off 156 balls which included 14 characteristic fours. No other player could pass 25 runs, which showed how he stood tall against the likes of Harmison and Plunkett and paced his innings. England had a bad day in the office, they conceded 42 extras and Sri Lanka ended on 257 for 9 in 50 overs, 47% of the runs coming from Tharanga’s Grey Nicholls.

Tharanga brought his 3rd Century, 120 off 156 balls

Chasing a not so challenging score of 257 England wobbled at their start. Captain Strauss, Bell, Pieterson and Collingwood all falling cheaply and the scoreboard read 4 for 66 at the end of 17 overs. Both Tresco and Jamie brought them back to the game with a partnership of 72 but it was not enough for them to salvage from their early fall back. Both Trescothick and Jamie scored 67 each but both of them did face way too much deliveries which ultimately caused them a defeat. The White boys clearly had an issue with picking up Malinga, his figures of 3 for 26 in 9 overs proved how hard and challenging it was for the dudes to pick his bowling. All England could manage was 237 in their 50 overs handing a victory of 20 runs to the Lions. Sri Lanka was disciplined and only conceded 12 extras to that of 42 by England. There were no surprises who the Player of the Match was, it was young UT who scored his 3rd Century

2nd ODI – Sri Lanka 319 for 8 in 50 overs (Jayasuriya 122, Mahela 66, Sangakkara 51, Harmison 3 – 31) Beat England 273 for 10 in 46.4 overs (Pieterson 73, Collingwood 56, Jayasuriya 3 – 51) by 46 runs

Brit Oval did belong to the master blaster both with the bat and the ball. Jaunty Jayasuriya jolted Sri Lanka to a commanding victory.

Winning the all-important toss the Sri Lankan skipper decided to take the first lease of the wicket and rightly so Sri Lanka posted an imperious 319 on the board for the loss of 8 wickets. Jayasuriya whipped, flicked and pulled his way to his 20th Century, a delightful inning of 122 from 136 balls. The Classical duo couldn’t do any wrong and both of them made their ways to two charming half centuries which came more than run a ball. Jayawardena ended up on 66 from 62 balls and his best mate Sangakkara on 51 from 41 balls. Sri Lanka ended up on 319 for 8 and when all the bowlers traveled the distance and conceded more than 6 runs per over it was so good to see Harmison conceding just 31 runs in his 10 overs and picking up 3 vital wickets.

Jayasuriya pulled his way to his 20th Century, 122 off 136 balls

Chasing a colossal target of 320 once again the Englishmen didn’t have a good opening partnership and Sri Lanka went into this Match without one of their best bowlers at the time Randhi Dilhara Fernando, who missed out the game due to an injury. Pieterson, Bell, Collingwood, Dalrymple all contributed with scores of 73, 40, 56 and 37 respectively but it was not enough for them to snatch the game from the visitor’s hands. England ended up on 273 all out in 46.4 overs and it was a day that belonged to the bold man who took 3 for 51. Not a surprise who the man of the match was it was Sanath for is brilliant 122 and 3 wickets. So both the openers scoring centuries in the first two ODI’s and it was left for someone else in the lineup.

Jayasuriya bagged 3 for 51 runs

3rd ODI England 261 for 7 in 50 overs (Bell 77, Trescothick 36, Vaas 2 – 38) lost to Sri Lanka 265 for 2 in 42.2 overs (Mahela 126, Sangakkara 58) by 8 wickets 

Tharanga’s Grey Nicholls spoke in Lords, Sanath’s Kukkubara in Brit Oval and who is it next in line, yes it was the day of the skipper. The RBK of Mahela Jayawaredena timed the ball ever so sweetly and in a smoother manner to bring in his 7th ODI Century.

England won the toss, elected to bat and brought in Alex Loudon in place of Bresnan and the guy was making his debut, well that’s the only game he played in his cricketing career for England. Fernando returned for Sri Lanka in place of Ruchira Perera and they were forced to bring in Malinga Bandara in place of the Spin Wizard since he had to go back home to visit his ill son who had to undergo a surgery.

Alex Loudon made his ODI  Debut and received the cap from Captain Strauss

Strauss and Tresco made a condensed opening partnership of 62 but the rest failed to put the pedal on the accelerator. Their highest runs scorer; bell took 114 balls to make 77, this made us realize that run scoring was not fluent. Vaas was economical bagging 2 wickets for just 38 runs in his 10 overs.

Nowadays Sri Lanka would give you heart attacks when chasing down a score of around 265 but this was not the case in 2006, a target of 265 was just a walk in the park for the Lions. Sri Lanka chased down the target in just 42.2 overs at 6.25 runs per over. After Tharanga’s exodus when the total was at 125 the twin towers added an unbeaten 140 for the 3rd Wicket. Mahela’s timeless flicks through the leg side, his effortless cover drives, nudges and delicate touches just wide of the keeper helped him to move into 126* off just 127 balls and his best buddy steadied the ship and brought himself yet another half-century. No England bowler could settle down and pick up wickets.

No doubts who the Man of the Match was, it was Mahela and Sri Lanka won the series 3 – 0 with two games up their sleeves.

Mahela and Sanga added 140* for the 3rd Wicket and Mahela brought his 7th Century, 126* off 127 balls

4th ODISri Lanka 318 for 7 in 50 overs (Mahela 100, Tharanga 60, Maharoof 58, Dalyrmple 2 – 44) beat England 285 for 10 in 48.4 overs (Strauss 45, Trescothick 44, Bandara 2 – 43, Dilshan 2- 46) by 33 runs

First three matches the Sri Lankans made centuries in order. First Match Tharanga, next match Sanath and the third Match Jayawardena. Well everybody was thinking that it will continue further down and Kumar Sangakkara will score a century but this was not the case here it was Mahela Jayawardena who made a fluent century once again.

It was not Manchester United playing at Old Trafford, but a cricket match was happening this time. Sri Lanka won the toss had no disinclination in batting first. England’s problems got from bad to worse when two of their preeminent players; Pietersen and Collingwood got injured. England kept on sinking further while the Lankans kept on partying. England made four changes to their 11 that were hammered at Chester-le-Street. Alastair Cook made his one-day debut in place of Kevin Pietersen; Vikram Solanki came in for the injured Paul Collingwood; Tim Bresnan returned in place of Sajid Mahmood while Kabir Ali replaced Alex Loudon.

Jayasuriya fell early but Mahela and Tharanga impressed. Tharaga fell when the scoreboard read 160 in 24.5 overs for a well-made 60. Jayawardena continued on his merry ways until he reached his 8th century in just 83 balls, 100 off 83 balls is indeed a brusque innings. His inside out shots, clips into the gaps, hoists over the bowlers head proved why his innings was such a delightful one. Sangakkara, Dilshan, Arnold, and Vaas couldn’t pass 7, it was surprising to see all 4 of them getting out for 7. Sri Lanka were 250 for 7 in 43.5 overs in came Mahroof and Bandara to the Wicket and the duo added 68 runs in just 37 balls, indeed this was the late surge the Lankans needed. Maharoof brought his maiden Half century with the best possible way a player could, depositing Ali for a wonderful six over Square leg. Maharoof ended up on 58 off 50 balls and Bandara on 28 off 22 balls. Sri Lanka ended up on 318 for 7. The last four overs produced 50 runs to take the game out of reach unless England makes a comeback of Lazarus-like proportions. The bowling was poor, and Sri Lanka batted with style and experience.

Mahela pulled himself for a yet another century, two consecutive centuries in the tour. 100 off 86 balls

Tresco had a new opening partner and it was the debutant, Cook. The couple were at the bowlers and they were going well with required run rate adding up 77 for the 1st wicket in just 72 balls after Strauss fell when the score was at 161 the England middle order couldn’t accelerate and chip in. 8 players managed to pass 20 but none did make a 50 or a notable performance to see England Through. 4 Sri Lankan bowlers grabbed 2 Wickets each. Malinga, Fernando, Bandara and Dilshan chipped in with 2 wickets apiece. England ended up on 285, handing the visitors yet another victory by 33 runs. Once again it was the Picasso of batting who become the man of the Match.

5th ODI – – England 321 for 7 in 50 overs (Trescothick 100, Solanki 44, Cook 41, Malinga 4 – 41) lost to Sri Lanka 324 for 2 in 37.3 overs (Jayasuriya 152, Tharanga 109, Solanki 1 – 17) by 8 wickets 

The best match of the series, 2nd century for Jayasuriya and Tharanga in the series, a record-breaking opening partnership ensured that the Lions did chase a mammoth 324 in just 37.3 overs, 324 chased down with 75 balls remaining and 8 wickets in hand showcased how strong the Sri Lankans were 12 years back.

Winning the toss on 1st of July 2006 at Leeds the England Skipper decided to bat first on a lovely warm, sunny morning. Known as the ‘Gappiya’, Arnold – one of the few Sri Lankans not to have shone in the series missed out in place of Chamara Kapugedera and England went unchanged. A few hundred miles away, England’s footballers were warming up for their quarter-final in the World Cup against Portugal. But they lost both in Cricket and Football

England openers were once again very good adding 82 for the first wicket in 102 balls, Cook was the first to go back to the hut who looked impressive and showed signs of a great player in the making, and he was dismissed for 41 off 54 balls. Tresco was the main man and all the others batted with him and supported him. He raced to 121 off 118 balls with 16 fours and 1 six, brought his 12th century in style and back then he was the fastest to reach 12 centuries. Solanki’s late surge of 44 off 34 balls gave the finishing touches to the England innings. Lasith Malinga, though, was brilliant throughout, he picked up 4 for 44. They ended up on 324 which handed over the Lankan a stiff target of 324. Despite the sunshine at Headingley, the day had a sad shadow cast over it with the news that Fred Trueman had died. A wonderful bowler and an engaging personality, on and off the field, he had been struggling with lung cancer for some time. 

Fred Truman retired from life on the day of the 5th ODI

Jayasuriya and Tharanga started the Sri Lankan fight back, both players were in red hot form registering a century each in the series. Both of them were in a hurry to finish the game and go to bed early. England bowlers were hammered to all corners of headingly, the first 10 overs went for 133 runs, I repeat 133 runs in just 60 balls; Jayasuriya was on 65 off 31 balls and Tharanga on 52 off 35 balls. The duo continued to bat on, bat on a rapid pace, a never-ending pace. Sanath brought his 21st Century in just 72 balls with 13 fours and 2 sixes, Tharanga was going head to head and he brought his 4th Century in 82 balls with 14 fours and 1 six. The duo batted for 31.5 overs and scored 286 runs; a partnership of 286 runs scored in just 191 balls at 9.00 runs per over indicated how much Sri Lanka dominated the game. When Tharanga got out for 109 off 102 balls when the score was at 286 it was a little too late for the dejected Englishmen

This Partnership of 286 for the first wicket was the highest Partnership for the 1st Wicket for 12 years until it was broken by Iman – Ul Haq and Fakhar Zaman of Pakistan in 2018

On a different note how many 200 +opening partnerships does Tharanga have? Yes, 7 partnerships the most by any opening batsmen in ODI history. His partnerships are;

  • 1. 286 against England with Sanath 
  • 2. 282 against Zimbabwe with Dilshan 
  • 3. 231* against England with Dilshan 
  • 4. 215 against Bangladesh with Mahela 
  • 5. 213 against India with Mahela 
  • 6. 202 against Pakistan with Mahela 
  • 7. 201 against New Zealand with Sanath

Jayasuriya recorded his 3rd score of over 150 and he fell as the 2nd and only wicket of Sri Lanka for a well-made 152 off just 99 balls with 20 fours and 4 maximums, a strike rate of 153 indicated how strong the bold man was. When he got out only 33 was needed and Mahela and Sangakkara played very cultured innings to take Sri Lanka to an easy win by 8 wickets and 75 balls remaining. No England bowler could earn any success and their most experienced bowler went for 97 runs in 10 overs which was the highest by an English bowler. Santah Jayasuriya was the man of the match and man of the series

Final Say 

It was an imposing series for the Lions. A clean Whitewash of 5 -0 In England is indeed a great performance. Tharanga was just 21 and what a series he had, he brought up his 3rd and 4th ODI century in the series and ended the tour as the highest runs scorer with 347 runs in 5 matches at an average of 69.40 with two centuries and 1 half ton. Mahela was the 2nd in the list with 328 runs at an average of 109.33 with two centuries and 1 fifty and the Master blaster came in 3rd with 322 runs at an average of 64.40 with two centuries. Sanath also had the most number of fours and sixes in the series with no surprise, 44 fours and 7 sixes. Malinga toped in the bowling department bagging 13 wickets in 5 matches at an average of 17.53 and an impressive economy of 4.88, his best bowling in the tour was 4 for 44. Jayasuriya also did well in bowling, he finished with 5 wickets. His 322 runs and 5 wickets in the series help to earn himself the man of the series award.

Jayasuriya was the Man of the Match in the 5th ODI and the Man of the Series

After the England series, Sri Lanka toured the Netherlands and it was in that match where they recorded the highest ODI score of 443, which was there with the Lankans for over 10 years. In that match too Jayasuriya recorded yet another score of 150+, 157 in 104 balls which was his 4th score over 150 and Dilshan contributed well with 117 off 78 balls. In the 2nd and Final match too Sri Lanka posted a score of 313. So their scores in the last 4 matches read; 318, 324, 443 and 313 which was also a record at that time.

Mahela Jyawardena with the Natwest Cup

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