The role of an opening fast bowler in Test Cricket is sound and simple, other than being vital, that is to try to make opposition opening batsmen play each and every ball and take advantage of the pitch and swing and seam of the new cherry. We talk about big bats, bulky edges when discussing batting these days, but some things never change about Test Cricket when facing up the new harder ball, the tendency to feel the ball to the bat and the vulnerability of the batsmen on and around the off stump in the so called corridor of uncertainty. So as an opening bowler, you have every chance of getting early breakthroughs if you make opening batsmen play as much as possible.
In the 3rd Test between Sri Lanka and Pakistan, currently getting under way at Pallekele, Suranga Lakmal shared the new ball with Dammika Prasad. He bowled 5 overs, 30 balls, in the first spell, overs 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 and the figures were 5 overs – 1 maiden – 22 runs – 0 wickets. The figures don’t really match up with the sound and simple theory a new ball bowler should follow. Noted down is how he bowled during the spell.
To the left handed opener Shan Masood: 6 balls
|On the pads||4 balls|
|Banged in short||1 ball|
|On the off blocked||1 ball|
To the right handed opener Ahmed Shehzad: 24 balls
|Left alone||15 balls|
|On the off blocked||3 balls|
|Dashed on the off side||1 ball|
|Fours||5 fours, 4 off and cover drives and a leg glance|
These 15 balls outside the off stump are way too much to be seen from an International level Test opening bowler. The 4 fours driven by Ahmed Shehzad were way too outside the off stump and asking to be hit as there was not enough lateral movement present for Suranga Lakmal at that moment and he should have adjusted accordingly. That makes 19 out of 30 deliveries are harmless. That’s more than 60% of his initial 30 deliveries spell, which eventually became a waste.
Suranga Lakmal is a handy bowler in swinging and seaming conditions with his out swingers and nagging lengths and bounce. But his target has been around 7th or 9th stump during that spell. He is not bowling from close to the stumps too. He is bowling around the midpoint of the line between the stumps and the side lines and bowls to the exact opposite direct line of the batting side of the pitch. This is not acceptable and it is way too outside the radar and batsmen have free sightseeing of the ball. Meanwhile Dammika Prasad was constantly asking questions from both the batsmen from the other side. He was absolutely brilliant and consistent with his lines and lengths always making batsmen play and Nuwan Pradeep too bowled at the batsmen and was rewarded 3 wickets each, and at the end of the day, the difference was clear.
It was the case of Chanaka Welegedara too. He was bowling outside the off stump for no use. No wonder their bowling averages are so high. With the loose balls disappearing as boundaries and the stock ball, which is too outside the off stump that how can a bowler be expected to take a wicket unless a rare mistake from the batsman . This approach has been constant among Sri Lankan fast bowlers in the recent past, but seeing Dammika Prasad performing well and leading the pace pack, is becoming more aggressive, rather being conservative, now with the likes of Dushmantha Chameera, Nuwan Pradeep in the ranks, Sri Lankan coaches should work it out to make the pace pack bowl more towards the batsmen.
Surang Lakmal is coming back of an injury and trying to settle in to a rhythm. No doubt there is Test quality in him and he should work this out during practice sessions and be that attacking option to support the other seamers in the side.