Has Sri Lanka ever won a Test series in England?

Sri Lanka won the Test series 1–0 (the first time they had won a Test series with more than one match in England), the ODI series 3–2 and the one-off T20I.

Any hopes of a barnstorming finish to the series, in which England bowled their way to a third victory or, considerably less likely, Sri Lanka scored 330 more runs to win, came to a watery conclusion. Rain at intervals through the morning had meant play was not possible until 1.20pm.

Away to the west, though, beyond the construction works of the new Warner stand, the darkest of a series of dark clouds were already gathering and after three overs and four balls of the final day the rain came down in sufficient torrents to leave even this ground, with the best drainage, with lakes on the outfield.

The mopping was diligent and there was a further restart at 4.10pm, with 8.4 more overs bowled before the rain returned once more. Sri Lanka finished on 78 for one, Kusal Mendis putting an emphatic seal on the series by carting its last delivery, from Joe Root, into the Tavern stand for six. Dimuth Karunaratne was unbeaten on 37.

there has been time enough in that first mini-session for Jimmy Anderson to take the single wicket, that of Kaushal Silva, with such a brilliant piece of cerebral swing bowling that it would have been worth the price of admission on its own. Anderson was bowling from the Nursery end, one towards which, for unfathomable reasons, he has antipathy.

It is, for a variety of reasons too lengthy to go into real detail about here but relating to topography, technique and prevailing weather, regarded as the better end for swing bowling but he remains unseduced by its charms, preferring the Pavilion end. Perhaps it is a function of the plethora of left-handers to which he has bowled in recent years, and his preferred method of sending the ball away from them down the hill towards the slips, which he can do quite dramatically at times, rather than the old-fashioned pursuit of lbw.

Two things had happened here, though. The first was that Stuart Broad was given choice of ends and he opted for the Pavilion (strange, given that Broad loves the Nursery end, and maybe based on the occasional hideous low bounce to be seen from there in this match). The second was that it was Broad who was given first over.

Anderson is reluctant to see the benefit of the Nursery: he tends, he says, to go too wide to right-handers and struggles to slant it up the hill across the lefties. The key, though, if the ball is swinging, is to bowl from mid-crease and to a tight line of fourth stump or even straighter and to look for more inswing to left-handers.

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Anderson sent down one exploratory, slightly disgruntled, foothole-kicking over, in which he conceded a boundary to Silva, punished away square on the offside, but then found his range. The left-handed Karunaratne took a sharp single from the first ball of his second over to put Silva on strike. The magician flexed his fingers. Silva was beaten from short of a length, the ball climbing through to Bairstow. It was ominous. A change of ends from his usual preference did him no harm in the first Test at Headingley and, if there is movement, he will be a handful no matter which end he uses at Lord’s. The next delivery was tight to the batsman again and moved away but this time Silva judged it well, raising his bat high and allowing it to pass by.

Series results

England in Sri Lanka Test Match1981/82England1-0 (1)
Sri Lanka in England Test Match1984drawn0-0 (1)
Sri Lanka in England Test Match1988England1-0 (1)
Sri Lanka in England Test Match1991England1-0 (1)
England in Sri Lanka Test Match1992/93Sri Lanka1-0 (1)
Sri Lanka in England Test Match1998Sri Lanka1-0 (1)
England in Sri Lanka Test Series2000/01England2-1 (3)
Sri Lanka in England Test Series2002England2-0 (3)
England in Sri Lanka Test Series2003/04Sri Lanka1-0 (3)
Sri Lanka in England Test Series2006drawn1-1 (3)
England in Sri Lanka Test Series2007/08Sri Lanka1-0 (3)
Sri Lanka in England Test Series2011England1-0 (3)
England in Sri Lanka Test Series2011/12drawn1-1 (2)
Sri Lanka in England Test Series2014Sri Lanka1-0 (2)
Sri Lanka in England Test Series2016England2-0 (3)
England in Sri Lanka Test Series2018/19England3-0 (3)

A good tactic, though, is to show the batsman an alternative delivery, an inswinger generally, early on: it puts doubt in the judgment of what to leave, so there is a chance that balls which might otherwise have been ignored are played at.

Anderson bowls a devastating inswinger, so prolific in fact that at one time in his career, when he appeared to bowl almost exclusively at left-handers, he almost lost his away-swinger. This one was spot on, fuller in length, starting on the same line as the previous two deliveries but snaking in instead of darting away. Silva failed to read it and, with bat thrust in the air once more, the ball thudded into his pads. It looked stone dead and, although the batsman reviewed the decision, the technology confirmed it was indeed so. The returning rain meant there was no time for a restart.

England thus win the first part of the Test match summer by two matches to nil. Sri Lanka, a side in real transition following the loss of some great cricketers, were never going to be the strongest opposition, particularly in the sort of conditions that enabled Anderson in particular to take 21 wickets at 10 runs apiece.

But they were so obviously learning on the hoof and, if there is one heartening piece of play to come from them, it was on the fourth evening when, faced with a new-ball burst from Anderson and Broad, they might have folded. Instead Karunaratne and Silva played not just with skill and courage but with panache to remain undefeated. To come here, learn and improve: one cannot ask for more.

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