Many past and many new Gullivers Sports Travel clients joined the 6 tours that were operated to watch the 2018 Sri Lanka v England Test Series.
Some of the preceding ODIs and single IT20 had been ruined by the seasonal rains – so, even before travelling, there was some trepidation that the Tests might suffer a similar fate… indeed, the 7-day forecast for the period of the first match (in Galle) was appalling – with amber storm warnings in place for some days. A visit to the ground on the afternoon before the match did not increase optimism – tarpaulins covered the entire playing area, with standing water in the gap just inside the boundary rope coming over sandals, and it then rained again until late-evening…
On the first morning, our 3 groups set off for the ground – more in hope rather than expectation – and we were astonished to find both teams going through their warm-ups on a pristine-looking outfield, albeit some of the public areas were a quagmire… Even more incredibly, the Toss came on time at 9.30 (Joe Root continued his winning streak and elected to bat) and, after the National Anthems, play started at 10am.
England were soon in familiar territory – 10-2 in the 3rd over with Rory Burns removed for 9, and Moeen Ali bowled comprehensively first ball. Jack Leach fell early the next morning but Jimmy Anderson held his end to allow the debutant to reach an impressive century before he was out for 107 and England 342 all out. Soon, Sri Lanka were also 10-2, and proceeded to 42-4 at lunch. Joe Root declared on 322-6, setting Sri Lanka an unlikely 462 runs to win; in the 7 overs left on Day 3, the target had been reduced by 15 without loss.
The Sri Lankan openers thwarted England until after the first drinks break on Day 4, and then both were out in short succession to make the score 59-2. Perera and Suranga Lakmal hit some lusty blows before the innings ended on 250 – with England winning by 211 runs. It was ‘ironic’ that, despite all the forecasts of prolonged thundery showers, not one minute of playing time was lost…
With the Match finishing a day early, an additional excursion was run for those clients who wanted to see more of Galle – and they also called in at the Tsunami Museum. Many clients had pre-booked the Whale Watching excursion, and a few departed on the 2-night visit to Yala National Park. Some of those remaining in Bentota attended a short Act of Remembrance arranged by the Gullivers Tour Managers. Monday 12th saw some clients visiting the Turtle Hatchery and enjoying a Boat Safari – with much amusement as one of the turtles ‘performed’ on a member of the Gullivers staff…!
On Tuesday 13th, the Elephant, Stingray and Turtle Tours headed for Kandy – and were joined there by the Leopard Tour which had recently arrived from the UK. On Wednesday, after negotiating hairpin bends (testament to the skill of our coach drivers), we arrived in bright sunshine at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium to witness the Toss in the 2nd Test. Joe Root called correctly again, and had no hesitation in batting first. They say that ‘you’re only as good as your last innings’ – and Keaton Jennings succumbed in the 5th over. In the midst of the Evening Session, the score was 290 and in the 12 overs remaining, Sri Lanka made 26-1.
There was an early success on Day 2 with time for only one maiden over before the Close – with Jack Leach coming out as night watchman with Rory Burns. Leach lasted only a few minutes into Day 3, after which Burns and Jennings put on 73 for the 2nd wicket. Burns (59) and Stokes (0) fell in consecutive overs, but Root and Buttler ‘steadied the ship’ for England to take lunch at 131-4. A brisk innings by Ben Foakes saw the score move on to 324-9 when bad light stopped play just before a prolonged torrential downpour as we headed back to our coaches.
The premature end of play was ‘fortuitous’ as it gave our clients more time to change and travel to the Gullivers Cricket Forum which was held in the Grand Kandyan Hotel. Following welcome drinks and canapes, everyone took their seats before the panel was introduced – Vic Marks, Russel Arnold, and Jonathan Agnew as the host. Everyone enjoyed the repartee between the panel members, who also remained for a while for individual conversations and photographs.
Play started 15 minutes early on Day 4, and, a couple of lusty blows by Jimmy Anderson, meant that England’s 2nd innings closed on 346 – leaving Sri Lanka a target of 301. Bad light again stopped play in the middle of the evening session – by which time, Sri Lanka only needed 75 runs to win…
English supporters were somewhat nervous as play started on Day 5 – but the match was ‘wrapped up’ in 31 minutes as Dickwella was dismissed on 35, with both Suranga Lakmal and Malinda Pushpakumara failing to trouble the scorers as Sri Lanka were all out for 243. England had won by 57 runs.
On Monday 19th, some clients departed on a 3-night visit to Dambulla, and Sigiriya, some took the day trip to Sigiriya Rock, and some stayed to enjoy Kandy. The Stingray and Turtle Tours headed for Colombo for their End of Tour Dinner before their flight home. On that day, the Elephant and Leopard Tours also transferred to Colombo – with one coach routing via the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage.
The Final Test started on Friday 23rd at the lovely Sinhalese Sports Club Ground. Incredibly, Joe Root made it 3 out of 3 tosses, and elected to take first use of the wicket. Bad light again curtailed play with England on 3-0 – an overall lead of 99.
Jennings was out on the first ball of Day 3, and, by 10 overs’ later, Burns, Bairstow and Root were all back in the Pavilion. Ben Stokes (42) and Jos Buttler added 89 for the 5th wicket, with Buttler also contributing to a 40-run partnership for the 6th wicket with Moeen Ali before he was out for an attacking 64. Ali made 22, Rashid 24 and Foakes 36 as England ‘stumbled’ to 230 all out in 69.5 overs. Sri Lanka needed 327 runs to win in a minimum of 112 overs.
Resuming on Day 4 at 53-4, night watchman Lakshan Sandakan (7) hung around for 10 overs with Kusal Mendis, whereupon Roshen Silva arrived to participate in a partnership of 102 before Mendis was run out for 86 by a direct throw at the non-striker’s end from Jack Leach whilst attempting a second run. Silva was joined by Dickwella (19), Perera (5) and Lakmal before he was 9th out for 65 with the score on 226. With Sri Lanka 284 all out, the margin of victory was 42 runs, and a 3-0 Series win was completed.
The Presentation Ceremony was completed in good time for all clients to prepare for the End of Tours Dinner. Everyone assembled in the Lobby of the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel – and the venue for the function (which had been a closely-guarded secret) was revealed to be the 8° North boat on the lake itself. Prosecco was served as a welcome drink before cast-off at – and everyone enjoyed a sumptuous 3-course buffet before the upper deck was cleared for dancing to the DJ. An amusing incident came when the boat had to be replenished in mid-voyage as more red wine was required… We returned to the jetty at 11.30pm – and some clients continued their celebrations in the hotel bar.
With the premature finish to the 3rd Test, many took the opportunity to relax before the journey home, or to do some last-minute shopping. All were agreed that it had been a very enjoyable time in Sri Lanka, and many vowed to return – either on holiday, or when England return there in March/April 2020.
For the present, though, all the Gullivers Tour Managers would like to thank all clients for their excellent company – and we look forward to welcoming them to future tours.
- Peter Hodcroft, Gullivers Tour Manager