The test match between Sri Lanka and England ended, as predicted, in a draw. But rather than drifting towards this predicted close, Sri Lanka escaped defeat by just the skin of their teeth. Having been set a target of 390 to win, they ended up with a score of just 201 but in the process lost nine wickets. If they had lost one more wicket they would have lost the game but their last batsman gritted his teeth and held on, denying England a victory. In fact, in the last ball but one the umpire gave him out, leading to wild jubilation among the England players, but the instant review reversed the on-field call.
As expected, England declared their innings closed at the overnight score and it was clear from the start that Sri Lanka had no intention of chasing the impossible target and were going to try and run out the clock. And for the first half of the day, things went smoothly for them and the game seemed headed for a boring end.
But running out the clock is not an easy thing to do on the last day of a five day Test. It seems straightforward enough with the batsmen playing strict defense and not bother about scoring runs. But paradoxically, this enables the bowlers to be much more aggressive in attacking the batsmen since they are not concerned about giving away runs. This enables the fielding side to go into flat out attacking mode in their bowling and in their field settings so that the slightest mistake by a batsman can get him out while mistakes by the fielding side are inconsequential.
This is what happened. Sri Lanka started losing wickets and suddenly it seemed as if they were in real danger of losing the game. The fact that they held on is going to cause some second-guessing as to the wisdom of the England captain not declaring his innings closed late yesterday evening and giving his bowlers more time. Giving the shellacking England received at the hands of Australia recently, they are now in team rebuilding mode and maybe their captain did not want to risk starting what they are hoping will be a new era with a loss, and was thus ultra-cautious.
Whatever, this is one of those games where a no-decision was very exciting, something that can be utterly unfathomable to people who are not aficionados of cricket.