After a thrilling draw at Lord’s in the English summer of 2014, Sri Lanka faced England at Headingley for the second and final Test of the series.
In the past decade, Sri Lanka has had some memorable Test cricket efforts. Here are my top five innings.
5. Kumar Sangakkara
203 vs New Zealand – Wellington, 2015
Kumar Sangakkara is a class player as he would show again in the Kiwi capital.
In reply to New Zealand’s 221, he walked in with his team 1-18. When he scored his fifth run of the innings, he received a standing ovation from both sets of fans for completing 12,000 Test runs – a phenomenal achievement.
Sangakarra went on about his business but kept losing partners. He finally received some support off keeper Dinesh Chandimal (67) before the tail offered enough resistance for Sangakkara to score his ninth career double ton.
He was removed for 203, cutting a short and wide one from Jimmy Neesham for Trent Boult to take a one-handed screamer at point.
Sangakkara’s knock showed if you have an ounce of patience, you could cash in and score big because the wicket wasn’t that bad. He was a class player who was hungry for runs and his record – 38 hundreds, scored in every country bar the West Indies – backs that up.
New Zealand ended up winning by 193 runs after a tremendous comeback in their second innings, as one of their batsmen scored a double ton himself.
4. Kusal Mendis
176 vs Australia – Pallekele, 2016
Bowled out for 117 in the first innings, Sri Lanka were 2-9 in the second innings – still 77 runs behind the deficit.
Out came a youngster, who was still finding his feet at the highest level of cricket, who went all guns blazing. If there was a ball with a hint of width, he attacked.
Despite losing Kaushal Silva and Angelo Mathews, Mendis was fearless, especially against the spin duo of Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe.
With fielders stationed deep on the leg side to counter the sweep, Mendis slog-swept Lyon into the stands to score his maiden Test century.
Against the quicks, he played all around the wicket and formed partnerships with keeper Dinesh Chandimal (42) and Dhananjaya De Silva (36) before he was caught behind for 176.
Mendis was the youngest Sri Lankan to score a Test century against Australia (21 years 177 days) and had only a half century to his name beforehand.
His 176 helped his side gain a lead of 267 before the spinners ran riot to beat the tourists by 106 runs.
3. Dhananjaya de Silva
129 vs Australia – Colombo, 2016
Having already won the series, Sri Lanka were looking for a whitewash but Mitch Starc and Nathan Lyon ran the show in the first hour and the hosts were in serious strife at 5-26.
Dhananjaya de Silva walked in at seven and had a few close shaves, but once he had weathered the early storm, he put away the bad balls and reached his maiden half-century off just 94 balls.
The all-rounder just kept on grinding away, cutting Steve Smith for a boundary to score his century.
He and Chandimal (132) formed a 211-run stand for the sixth wicket until he was dismissed by Nathan Lyon for 129. In just his third Test, de Silva had shown immense maturity and dug his team out of a massive hole.
Sri Lanka ended up winning by 163 runs and Australia’s losing streak on the subcontinent went up to nine Tests in a row.
2. Angelo Mathews
160 v England – Leeds, 2014
Sri Lanka were 4-176 in the second innings, with a lead of only 68. They needed to pull a rabbit out of the hat.
From ball one, Angelo Mathews was switched on.
He drove and flicked the seamers if they bowled outside off or on his legs, putting on 92 for the fifth wicket with Mahela Jayawardene (79), before Sri Lanka slumped from 4-268 to 7-277.
Running out of partners, the skipper tried to slog his team out of trouble, until Rangana Herath started holding an end.
The pair put on 149 for the eighth wicket as Mathews reached his fourth Test ton – his third as captain. Mathews was dismissed for 160 as he flicked a Jimmy Anderson full toss straight to midwicket.
It was a true captain’s knock – he stood firm and played a quality innings to take Sri Lanka into the ascendancy, manipulating the gaps so well and hitting boundaries when he wanted. England’s bowlers posed no real threat.
Sri Lanka won the by 100 runs, despite England taking the Test to the last over.
The touring skipper was man of the match and, leading his country to a 1-0 series win in England.
153 vs South Africa – Durban, 2019
Chasing 304 on a spicy deck, Kusal Perera formed a 50-plus stand with Oshada Fernando (37) but they were still behind at 5-110.
De Silva battled alongside him for a 96-run stand before Keshav Maharaj had De Silva trapped for 48.
Sri Lanka then went to 9-226 and with nothing to lose, Perera played all types of sweeps and drives. Perera was so confident in his game that, despite having two fielders at square leg and cow corner, he smashed Dale Steyn over the boundary for two sixes.
With Sri Lanka 9-300, Perera dabbed one past slip and it raced to the boundary. Perera had pulled off the impossible and Sri Lanka won the first Test by one wicket.
This is the greatest Test innings of the 2010s.
A special shoutout needs to go to Vishwa Fernando for the greatest No.11 innings of all time – courtesy of some overthrows from Faf du Plessis as well.
The miracle in Durban has been used as a stepping stone for Sri Lanka’s revival under Dimuth Karunaratne.