Vaughan: Losing can become a habit

vaughanMichael Vaughan has admitted that Sri Lanka deserved their series win and that England had been “beaten by a better team”. Speaking as he prepared to fly home, he said that England needed to turn things around in New Zealand in March.

“I can’t fault the effort of the team but there are a few areas of expertise where we have to improve,” he said. “Any team going through a development stage goes through lows. I can’t fault the players’ commitment, but we just didn’t have the expertise. I hope we can start developing a winning culture. Losing can become a habit and we have to make sure we turn that around.

England drop to fifth in rankings

England may have drawn the final Test against Sri Lanka in Galle, but the 1-0 series loss meant they slipped from second to fifth in the LG ICC Test Championship table.

Sri Lanka, on the other hand, have jumped up two places from fifth to third; had they won in Galle, they would have replaced England in second position.

England’s slip results in South Africa becoming the No. 2 team in the rankings for both Tests and ODIs, behind Australia. With upcoming series between South Africa and West Indies and Australia and India beginning on Boxing Day, the rankings could well change before the year ends.

Rain denies Sri Lanka’s victory charge

Sri Lanka were denied victory in Galle when a second torrential downpour ended the final Test with England tottering on 251 for 6 although Alastair Cook’s 118, his seventh Test century, helped keep Sri Lanka at bay. However, when he was removed after the first interruption England’s tail was left with a task that would surely have been beyond them, especially against Muttiah Muralitharan who had triggered an earlier dramatic collapse of three wickets in four balls before lunch.

Dilshan avails his chance

dilshanTillakaratne Dilshan, who scored a stylish 84 on his return to the Sri Lankan team, said he was under no pressure while crafting a 149-run partnership for the fifth wicket alongside Mahela Jayawardene.

“I have been in good form these past three months both domestically and for the A-team and I was under no pressure when I was recalled to the team,” Dilshan said at the end of the second day’s play. “I played my natural game and was successful. I had been waiting for the past few weeks for an opportunity to get back into the side and when I did, I took full advantage of it.”

Sri Lanka captain accuses visitors of giving up

England’s hopes of squaring their series against Sri Lanka are all but over, after an abject second-day surrender at Galle. By the close of play, England’s tormentor-in-chief, Mahela Jayawardene, had taken to goading them from the ramparts. Not content with locking them out of the contest with a steadfast and brilliant 149 not out, he accused them afterwards of lacking the will to win.

“At times I felt they came hard at us but then gave up pretty easily,” said Jayawardene. “I was surprised. When you’re one-down you should try to attack more and create more opportunities. But they were a bit negative with their over-rates so I knew they were not pushing us that much.”

England set for battle in refurbished Galle

Players and fans alike will be forced to wait just a little while longer for international cricket to return to the tsunami-ravaged city of Galle, after a late shower on Monday afternoon forced the authorities to delay the start time of the third and final Test between England and Sri Lanka.

After two days of sunshine, including a swelteringly hot final day of practice, all the puddles in the outfield had dried and the muddy banks had been baked to a golden brown finish, but such is the tightrope that this ground has walked in the build-up to the match, that a half-hour shower was enough to tip the balance and force the start time to be pushed back by two hours.

England see the bigger picture

Drop by drop, blade by blade, paving slab by paving slab, Galle’s beleaguered stadium is getting itself ready for the biggest opening night of its nine-year international history. A mercifully rain-free day allowed vital drainage work to continue ahead of Tuesday’s first Test, and though the outfield remains sodden in places, the grass seems more even than might have been expected 48 hours ago. The concourse too has changed appearance significantly. Where on Friday there was thick mud, a vast blanket of gravel has now been laid – along with a forest of palm fronds to ensure that, at surface level at least, there is a measure of normality about the situation.

Galle faces race against time

The newly reconstructed stadium at Galle is facing a race against time to be fit for the third Test between Sri Lanka and England on Tuesday, after heavy unseasonal rain hindered the attempts of groundstaff and construction workers to put the finishing touches to their preparations.

With just three days to go until the final Test of the series, much of the playing area was underwater, while workmen were still laying paving and building ticket-booths on the concourse in front of the new pavilion. By Saturday afternoon there was no electricity or running water inside the ground’s buildings, and most of the grassy banks where England’s spectators sat during the ground’s last international fixture in 2003 are currently deep pools of mud.

Back to where it all began for Collingwood

collingwoodAs the groundsmen of Galle fight against the elements ahead of Tuesday’s final Test, the England batsman, Paul Collingwood, is readying himself for a return to the ground at which he made his debut four years ago.

Although heavy and unseasonable rains have hampered the groundsmen’s preparations, the odd damp patch on the outfield is rather trivial to what the locals had to endure four years ago when the whole area was devastated by the tsunami.

Dilshan replaces Mubarak for final Test

Sri Lanka have made two changes to their line-up for the final Test against England, bringing middle-order batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan and uncapped fast bowler Chanaka Welegedara into their 13-man squad.

Dilshan was making a comeback after being dropped from the squad for the tour to Australia in November. He replaced Jehan Mubarak, who scored only 18 runs in the first two Tests against England. Dilshan forced himself into the side by scoring 467 runs at an average of 58.37 in the on-going Premier limited-overs tournament. He also scored the tournament’s highest individual score – 188 off 135 balls.