After three days of relative calm and relaxation focus returns to the job we – and England’s cricketers – came to do. Only twice have visiting teams won 3-0 on Sri Lanka’s shores, and they were great teams. The Australians did it in 2004 and the Indians last year. England have not won 3-0 overseas since 1963.
Joe Root is all too well aware of the history: “It would be something very special, a little piece of history which we can keep with us always, but it won’t be easy,” he said, with obvious understatement.
The home side are in disarray, however, and England are showing absolutely no signs of a team with one foot on the return air flight, as teams with a series victory secured so often do. The infusion of fresh legs in Stuart Broad and Jonny Bairstow – both champing at the bit to get involved – means there will be new energy to add that which already exists.
The Sinhalese Sports Club is the literal, figural and spiritual home of Sri Lankan cricket. Mahela Jayawardene and Muttiah Muralitheran have scored more runs and taken more wickets here than any other batsman or bowler at any other venue in the history of the game. There is a sense of pride at stake which far exceeds the mere desire for consolation after losing the series.
Talking of ‘pride’, the team’s sponsor – Lion Lager – has an advertising board underneath the players balcony proclaiming its ‘pride’ of players. Of the 15 pictured, five have either retired or otherwise fallen by the wayside.
Word from those close to the England camp (and you don’t need to be close to it for confirmation) is that they are ‘up’ for the Test match as much, if not more, than they were before the first one. They may have snapped your hand off for a series win before departure, but now that they have it – they want the whole buffet. Sometimes there is a time and a place to be greedy, and this is England’s.
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