Sri Lankans had an eventful year in 2014 in International Cricket in all forms. They had a productive Test season with overseas series win in England and a series win against Pakistan, effective ODI season with Asia Cup Championship and a series win in England and a wonderful T20I season winning T20I World Cup in Bangladesh.
Through this post I would like to look back at achievements achieved and positives gained considering performances of Sri Lankans in Test Cricket in 2014. First I would like to consider team performances and achievements and then individual ones and finally positives.
Sri Lankans began 2014 with a three Test series in UAE against Pakistan started on 31st December 2013 with a new year’s Test. Then followed four two Test series each against Bangladesh in Bangladesh in January/ February, against England in England in June, against South Africa in Sri Lanka in July and against Pakistan in Sri Lanka in August and finally one of two Tests against New Zealand in New Zealand. Series by series stats of Sri Lankans in Tests in 2014 is as follows.
|South Africa||Sri Lanka||2||0||1||1||Lost|
|New Zealand||New Zealand||1||0||0||1||–|
Against Pakistan in UAE, Sri Lankans drew the 1st Test, won the 2nd Test and lost the 3rd one and the series result was 1-1. After conceding a considerable lead in the 1st innings of the 1st Test Sri Lankans fought hard in the 2nd innings to secure a draw. In the 2nd Test after rattling Pakistan to 165 in the 1st innings, they chased down the target of 137 to win the match by 9 wickets. Having the upper hand with 1-0 up going in to the last match of the series, Sri Lankans went defensive since the very beginning of the 3rd Test and out batted by an aggressive Pakistani top order, lost by 5 wickets. The 3rd Test was a potential draw in my opinion had they played more aggressive Test Cricket.
Next Sri Lankans went to Bangladesh to play 2 match Test series. They outplayed Bangladeshies in the 1st Test by an innings and 248 runs while racking up their highest total since 2010, 730/6d. Kumar Sangakkara scoring his 1st Test triple hundred added more glamour to his Test career. 2nd Test was a run fest and had both teams scoring over 400 runs in the 1st innings and ended in a draw and Sri Lankans won the series 1-0.
Then in June, during the pre-summer in England, Sri Lankans went to play another 2 match Test series. It was a closely contested series and both matches had dramatic last over finishes. In the 1st Test Sri Lankan last pair resisted, given out in the penultimate ball, then survived by a review to secure a draw and in the 2nd Test after a great fight back innings from Angelo Mathews shepherding the tail, English last pair couldn’t resist and Jimmy Anderson was caught in the penultimate ball of the match, with centurion Moeen Ali at the other end, winning the series 1-0 giving Sri Lankans the first ever series win in England in a series containing more than one Test.
Then in July Sri Lankan’s home commitments began with a 2 match Test series against South Africa, the No.1 Test team in the world. In the 1st Test Sri Lankans experienced a rare defeat at Galle; one of their fortresses and in the 2nd Test South Africa managed a draw by claiming the series 1-0. In my opinion 1st Test was a potential draw had Sri Lankans batted better and 2nd Test was a potential win where Proteas batted out for almost two days at SSC.
After South African series Pakistan came to Sri Lanka for a 2 match Test series in August. By South Africa series Mahela Jayawardena has announced his retirement from Test Cricket after the Pakistan series. Sri Lankans won the 1st Test comfortably by 7 wickets and in the 2nd Test Rangana Herath spun Pakistan to a 105 runs defeat with the best bowling figures in an inning in the year which gave Mahela Jayawardena the perfectly scripted farewell.
After few ODI series, Sri Lankans went to New Zealand to play 2 match Test series starting in late December. Only the 1st Test, started on Boxing Day, was held in 2014 and the 2nd one will start on 3rd January 2015. After a 1st innings slump and being asked to follow on Sri Lankans fought hard to avoid an innings defeat in the 2nd innings, but Kiwis won the match comprehensively.
These stats prove that Sri Lankans have had one of their most productive years of Test Cricket. They had won three Test series, two away and one at home and drawn one away. They have won more than lost ones and drawn more than lost ones, which is pretty acceptable under most conditions.
Sri Lankans played 12 Tests, their highest number of Tests in a year since 2001 and the second highest in their history. They racked up the highest total in Tests in 2014, 730/6d against Bangladesh.
Considering individual performances of Sri Lankans throughout the year, unsurprisingly Kumar Sangakkara tops the batting lists and Rangana Herath tops the bowling while the former is the No.1 ranked Test batsman and the latter is the No.2 ranked Test bowler at the end of 2014.
Kumar Sangakakra scored 1493 runs in the year at 71.09, which is the highest aggregate by an International Test batsman in 2014. The second in the list is Angelo Mathews, the Sri Lankan skipper who racked up 1317 runs at 87.80 who is also the second of the highest International Test run getters. Mahela Jayawardena also passed 1000 runs in the year before retiring after the Pakistan series. Four Sri Lankans were featured in top 10 International Test run getters list, including Kaushal Silva who scored 887 runs at 42.23 sitting at the 9th place. The highest individual score of the year was 319, scored by Kumar Sangakkara against Bangladesh. Also this year saw Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sanagakkara passing 11,000 Test runs.
Rangana Herath topped the International bowler’s list in 2014 taking 60 wickets in 10 matches at 27.45. Behind him was Dilruwan Perera who had taken 26 wickets in 7 matches at 30.08, who sits at 6th in the International list. Rangana Herath also claimed the best bowling figures in an innings taking 9 for 127 and in a match taking 14 for 184, both in the same match against Pakistan at SCC, Colombo.
There are many positives to be taken from the Test performances of Sri Lankan players to be carried forward to the years to come. The rise of Angelo Mathews as a leader and a world class batsman means that Sri Lanka Cricket is in the right hands. 2014 has been the best year for him and his average crossed over 50 for the first time in his career. With his consistent batting, reliable bowling which brought him 11 wickets in the year and along with his improved captaincy he was named the Captain of the ICC’s Test Team of the Year 2014.
Another positive is that Kaushal Silva and Dimuth Karunarathne are developing to be a successful opening combination. Kaushal Silva scored consistently and played a crucial role specially holding up one end most of the time playing some gritty innings. Though dropped and replaced by Upul Tharanga for a couple of series and having experienced ups and downs, Dimuth Karunarathne scored his maiden Test ton in New Zealand a few days ago under difficult circumstances. The duo seems to be getting settled for the opening positions.
The year also saw Dilruwan Perera settling in to the second spinner role. He was the second best bowler for Sri Lanka. Along with Rangana Herath, the off spinner will tighten the screws and pick up wickets while providing variety to the Sri Lankan bowling attack in future assignments.
The other positive is that the emergence of a pace bowling quartet. After the retirement of Chaminda Vaas and Lasith Malinga from Test Cricket, Sri Lankans didn’t have a strike pace man. The year 2014 saw four fast bowlers are developing and settling in to a rhythm. After being arrived to the International scene 3, 4 years ago, Suranga Lakmal, Shaminda Eranga, Dhammika Prasad and Nuwan Pradeep have bowled their heart out to win Tests in demanding conditions in the UAE and more helpful conditions in England. Proper management of training and workload will guide them to be successful Test bowlers in the years to come.
With seniors performing their best, a captain developing to be a leading force in International Cricket, bowlers settling in and developing and delivering good and young players knocking in to a settling unit, Sri Lankans played one of their best seasons of Test Cricket in 2014 and will be one of the major forces in world Test Cricket in the years to come.
Note: The statistics were extracted from ESPN Cricinfo's Statguru.