Fast bowler Suranga Lamkal became the 16th Test captain in the history of Sri Lanka cricket after regular skipper Dinesh Chandimal’s appeal over a ball-tampering suspension was dismissed by the ICC.
With veteran spinner Rangana Herath injured, Lakmal was entrusted with the captain’s role and he didn’t disappoint in the first session of the day-night Test against the West Indies in Barbados on Saturday.
Bowling first in one of the greenest wickets seen in the Caribbean, Lakmal extracted prodigious movement in the air and off the pitch as he snared the wickets of Windies openers Devon Smith and Kraigg Brathwaite.
He finished the opening day with figures of 2-42 as West Indies limped to 132-5.
Lakmal is the first genuine fast bowler to lead Sri Lanka in Tests.
Before him, first-ever captain Bandula Warnapura and Angelo Mathews are the only others who fall in the seam bowling category but both were batsmen of repute. Lakmal therefore is the first pace bowling Test captain in Sri Lanka’s 36-year Test history.
Record-breaking England have piled up mountains of runs in the resounding series success over their Ashes rivals, taking in a new world-record 481 for six at Trent Bridge.
Morgan’s men followed that 242-run win with their second-highest successful run chase at Chester-le-Street, meaning one more win at Old Trafford on Sunday will bag a piece of history.
The powerhouse batting of Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow and Alex Hales has been key throughout, while Australia have appeared to be operating a throwback conservative game plan.
It has all left former England wicketkeeper Prior chuckling at England’s superiority over opponents, depleted by several high-profile absences but a shadow of the team which won the last World Cup.
For many years before then too, Australia were 50-over cricket’s pre-eminent force, with England so often also-rans.
“What’s hilarious for me is it’s almost like roles reversed,” Prior told Press Association Sport.
“I played in many England one-day teams, when we played like Australia are playing now – too defensive, not getting enough runs on the board, leaving too much for the back end.
“Then the opposition would come and play like England are playing and absolutely trounce us.
“It’s incredible to see that England are now that team, playing the brand of cricket people have been longing for.
“Many tried and failed previously, but this team have just got it right, ably led by Eoin Morgan.”
Prior finds Bairstow’s brilliant form especially heartening, after England’s Test wicketkeeper reportedly endured some of the worst of Australian sledging in last winter’s Ashes before the ball-tampering fiasco in South Africa three months ago convinced them to alter their image.
“It’s the only way to answer, isn’t it?” he said.
“When you have verbals thrown at you – and some horrendous verbals as well – the best thing to do is just score back-to-back hundreds and keep winning games.
“He’s done exactly that, taken it all in his stride, with a pinch of salt and said, ‘Do you know what, I’m just going to score runs’.”
At Trent Bridge, Bairstow set the tone with 139 from 92 balls.
“Someone said, ‘Jonny Bairstow is on for a double hundred’,” added Prior . “(But) if Jonny Bairstow had carried on batting for 50 overs, he’d have got 300!”
He added of England’s current world-beating form: “It’s just absolutely outstanding. As an ex-player, as an England fan, as a supporter of cricket it’s great to watch.
“Flash in the pan, one innings, brilliant, but they’re actually doing it time and time again.
“Who’d have thought, a few years ago, we’d have been saying England are leading the way in ODI cricket?
“It’s been a hell of a turnaround and fantastic.”
One manoeuvre mooted for their bid to win a maiden World Cup next summer is the possible England and Wales Cricket Board fast-tracking of Barbados-born Sussex seamer Jofra Archer’s availability via UK residency.
Archer’s talent was obvious at an early stage on arrival at Hove.
“Jofra was the kind of guy, when he first turned up, you could tell he’s got something different,” said ex-Sussex star Prior .
“From an England perspective, if you’ve got a player available who is that good, then of course you want him in your squad.
“You’d be silly not to. His potential is clear for everyone to see.
“Whether the ECB choose to change rules to try to fast-track him, that’s for them, but one thing is for sure, he’s a hell of a talent.”
Suranga Lakmal has been appointed as Sri Lanka’s captain for their third Test against West Indies, which begins later today on Saturday.
Dinesh Chandimal lost his appeal for a one-match ban for ball-tampering and the Sri Lankan cricket board have named 31-year-old bowler Lakmal as his replacement.
“Lakmal was appointed as the captain, in the absence of Dinesh Chandimal,” Sri Lanka Cricket said in a brief statement.
Sri Lanka must win the first-ever day-night Test in the Caribbean to save the three-match series after losing the first Test. The second Test ended in a draw.
Chandimal will miss out on the game after he was given a ban for applying saliva to the ball, reportedly with a sweet, during the second Test. He was also charged 100 per cent of his match fee.