No happy endings for Sangakkara and Clarke

COLOMBO • India spoilt Sri Lankan great Kumar Sangakkara's farewell party with off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin bowling the visitors to a series-levelling 278-run victory in the second cricket Test yesterday.

Ashwin (5-42) and his spin colleague Amit Mishra (3-29) ran through the Sri Lankan batting order as the hosts, chasing 413 for an improbable victory, collapsed to 134 all out in their second innings.

That gave Virat Kohli his first Test victory as India's captain.

"A commendable effort by the boys, coming together nicely after that kind of loss (at Galle), regrouping very quickly and putting a performance like this.

"We were pumped up to get wickets," he said.

Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews said: "We did not play our best cricket. More disappointing is we could not do it for Sanga, who deserved to leave the field with a high and a win. We promise him we will play our best in the next game and win it for him."

India's Lokesh Rahul, who struck a century in the first innings, was adjudged the Man of the Match.

Ashwin has been equally impressive. And with 17 wickets from the first two Tests, he is likely to trouble Sri Lanka again in the third and final Test in Colombo, starting on Friday.

Sangakkara, who made 32 and 18 in his 134th and final Test, was given a rousing reception.

The Indians shook hands with him and the former captain was hoisted by his team-mates for a round of the stadium as the crowd gave a standing ovation.

In London, Michael Clarke too got a guard of honour as he led Australia to victory by an innings and 46 runs in the fifth Test at The Oval - his final Test before retirement - on Sunday.

He claimed that the pitches were prepared specifically to help England's bowlers and that led to his side's failure to retain the Ashes. Australia lost the series 2-3.

While Australia were victorious on the two flattest pitches of the series at Lord's and The Oval, they were ruthlessly exposed by England's pace bowlers on the lively tracks at Cardiff, Edgbaston and Trent Bridge.

"I've got a feeling, from the conversations I've had with a lot of the groundsmen in this country, they're a little bit disappointed they haven't been able to do as they've wanted to do," Clarke said. "I don't know what influence the England and Wales Cricket Board had...

"If I go to the groundsman at the Gabba (in Brisbane) and say 'I want it to be a turner like the SCG', he'll absolutely laugh at me.

"It might be different around the world."

Condemned to become the first Australian to lose four Ashes series in England since the 19th century, Clarke suggested that players and fans were getting a raw deal from the current trend of home boards preparing pitches to suit their teams.

"I think Test cricket is a five-day battle. I want to see good and fair cricket for both batters and bowlers. The fans of the game deserve to see a really good contest for five days," he said. "I think that's the way the game should be played.

"I think the past three Test matches have not been that case."

England captain Alastair Cook was unimpressed by Clarke's complaints. "The wickets are the same for both sides.

"In three of five Tests, we played better and that's why we won the Ashes," he said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2015, with the headline 'No happy endings for Sangakkara and Clarke'. Print Edition | Subscribe