England foiled by Sri Lanka as thrilling Test rivals World Cup
Last Sri Lankan batsman survives final five balls of the match to secure a draw at Lord's
England's first cricket Test of the summer, intriguingly scheduled to coincide with the start of the football World Cup, ended in the draw that many had forecast. But few could have predicted how thrilling the climax to the game at Lord's would be, as Sri Lanka's last batsman, Nuwan Pradeep, somehow negotiated the final five balls of the match to save his side.
He came to the wicket after Rangana Herath fell to the first ball of the last over from Stuart Broad and England moved in for the kill. But he survived three deliveries before being given out LBW to the penultimate ball of the day, only to have the decision overturned on review, thanks to an inside edge.
Pradeep then edged the final ball of the day to the slips, but it fell short of Chris Jordan, and Sri Lanka had escaped.
"Of all cricket's three forms, only a Test match can produce drama such as this," says Michael Atherton in The Times, describing Pradeep as "a batsman so poor that he could be described fairly as a ferret, given that he goes after the rabbits".
England had declared overnight leaving Sri Lanka to negotiate the 90 overs of the final day on a benign pitch. And they appeared on course for a comfortable draw at 158-2 off 54 overs.
However, Jimmy Anderson then took centre stage with three wickets for two runs in three overs, to leave Sri Lanka reeling at 170-5. The tourists regrouped and survived another 20 overs before the sixth wicket fell with the finishing line in sight. Broad and Anderson struck in the final overs to leave Sri Lanka eight wickets down ahead of the final over which "contained enough drama to fill a short novella", according to Derek Pringle of the Daily Telegraph.
"England began their new era with a draw but what a thriller it turned out to be, with Sri Lanka's batsmen hanging on at Lord's by whatever means possible, none of them pretty, to save the match with nine wickets down," he says.