Mahela Jayawardene has fired up at England’s tactics at Headingley and questioned their captain’s public comments, after Sri Lanka finished day four with a famous away win in sight. The tour has been hard-fought on both sides, with the reporting of Sachithra Senanayake‘s bowling action and the England response to Jos Buttler‘s Mankading in the fifth ODI causing the most visible problem in the Sri Lanka camp.
Sri Lanka’s bowlers have largely prospered by bowling a fuller length at Headingley, while England’s fast bowlers largely bowled shorter. When he asked whether Sri Lanka had shown England how to bowl seam at the venue, Jayawardene said his side had passed that desire to England’s batsmen in the middle.
“Their idea of hurting us and hitting us on the head probably doesn’t work,” he said. “If you’re getting that good length up front, getting the ball to do a bit and being patient, one way or another, people will nick it. I thought we hung in there. We were disciplined enough. We had to get a few hits on our bodies, but I’m sure tomorrow afternoon we’ll have a good laugh about it.“
The fourth day began with England holding the edge but Angelo Mathews‘ excellent 160 and an brilliant four-wicket burst from Dhammika Prasad left the visitors with five wickets to get to complete victory.
“England were quite chirpy in the morning, but they quietened up after the first hour or so,” Jayawardene said. “That’s part of the game. We know who is on top and who is not. They were quite chirpy yesterday evening as well, and they probably got quite a few from us when they came to bat. They’ll definitely get some more in the morning as well.“
“Chirping them is something we had spoken about. We’ve seen that under pressure, they’re not quite up to it. So we’ll definitely look forward to tomorrow. There’s a few young guys to come in and they’ll get some sledging.“
On the eve of the match, Alastair Cook had said “concerns had been raised” in the England camp when they viewed Senanayake’s action on video – a comment which will not have been taken well by the Sri Lanka team, who have rallied around Senanayake since his being reported. But it was Cook’s comments about his vocal critic Shane Warne, however, that Jayawardene questioned the wisdom of.
“I definitely feel for him but it doesn’t help when you have arguments with commentators and past cricketers. That’s something you can’t control. You try and control what’s there for you, which is trying to perform and carry yourself through.“
Cook’s unhappy run has continued through the first part of England’s summer, with his place in the Test team beginning to look shaky, let alone his captaincy. He has averaged 19.5 in the current series. Jayawardene said: “I always felt as a captain – before you are captain, you are a player. You need contribute to the team. You have 11 guys and you’re part of that. You can’t think about too many other things.“
Sri Lanka have already sealed up the limited-overs series and if they move on to a Test series win on Tuesday, they will have completed an incredible tour. It would also come under a five-month stretch in which they have won series across all formats in Bangladesh, the Asia Cup and the World T20. Jayawardene suggested the tense nature of the England tour would make a Test win particularly sweet.
“As a team this was always going to be a challenging tour for us,” Jayawardene said. “Things have happened, and we were quite comfortable with the way we handled them. At the end of the day our cricket was always going to be looked upon. I think we’ve played it with the right spirit, and played it very fairly.“
“Even coming into the Test series, we knew we had to brace for some of the backlash – which we did. We held our fort together and came back strongly. A lot of credit to the team, to the management, and to the entire group. It’s been a long season for us. We haven’t stopped since last December. We’ve been playing cricket pretty much on the road, so if we can get an away Test series win, it would be fantastic going back home.“