The English media’s asked if a 1-1 result is satisfactory for England. Given how the series started in Galle and with the shadow of Ajmal looming over them you would have think it’s acceptable. But what about Sri Lanka?
After a hard graft in Australia and sleep walking in Bangladesh, this was a chance for Sri Lanka to prove that Durban wasn’t a fluke and their bowlers d0n’t have to pay seedy Moratuwa University computer geeks to hack into Andy Flower’s computer. Or Ajmal’s.
Sri Lanka were pretty lucky to win at Galle. And in Colombo their luck ran out and England’s batsmen suddenly realised they were once ok at this batting thing. But that Galle win also glossed over a few issues that have been hurting Sri Lanka for a while now and it was bound to bite them in the backside with a vengance.
Do Sri Lanka have any? Dilshan, Thirimanne, Paranavitana, Warnapura, have all been tried and are in stuck in a continuously revolving door. No one is really being given a chance to either make it or break it. There have been no less than 8 combinations tried since the start of 2009. Of them the combinations that are worth mentioning are
NT Paranavitana, SM Warnapura
NT Paranavitana, HDRL Thirimanne
TM Dilshan, HDRL Thirimanne
When the Selectors did actually give some consistency to this position, with Dilshan and Paranavithana, they averaged 40 in 32 innings. Sometimes stats don’t tell you much. This is not one of them. We are not saying Paranavithana should open with Dilshan. We mean that consistency is important in this highly specialised role. Openers aren’t born overnight. They require a set of skills that most don’t value but few actually have. Leaving on length and having the discipline to see off the new ball is an art. Art is cultivated. Not artifically put together over a couple of games.
Then there is the issue of Dilshan. You can always talk about his lack of centuries but what hurts the most is his lack of consistency. There are plenty of innings where he does not get to 35 leaving Sri Lanka handicapped from the outset of a test. His technique has been exposed in SA and now at home by very skilled new ball bowlers. It’s hard to really figure out what his role is anymore. It used to be to score quickly. Now he doesn’t score at all. We don’t think he should be dropped down the order but it is getting dangerously close to it.
Sangakkara fails to ignite
Is The King fading? It’s hard to even think it but Sangakkara isn’t all there at the moment. One thing we have noticed is the lack of runs at the start of a series.11,14,26,12 v Eng, 10,17,48,68 v Aus, 1,2,0 v SA, 0,14,0, v Eng. In fact he started with a duck against Pakistan too but turned that around pretty quickly. This could be due to a number of reasons, getting in too early, not adjusting from one format to another, but it highlights another problem for Sri Lanka in that it is costing them vital runs in the first innings of a test and at the start of a tour. In the 2nd innings at the P Sara, he looked like a man who is frustrated, as he has for a while now, pushing and prodding, unsure, searching for something, anything, to build on. But it never came. It’s not a Sangakkara we are used to seeing.
Angelo is undoubtedly a talented cricketer. And he has a lot to offer Sri Lanka. But weirdly batting in tests isn’t something he does well. The one day game suits him because his requirements are clear and set out. And he knows the time frame in which he needs to do it in. Watching Angelo bat in tests is like watching someone learning to walk. It’s not pretty. Mathew’s essentially does not know how to approach a test innings. And the only time he looks like he has an idea is when Sri Lanka are going belly up. His technique isn’t outrageously good either. Maybe he just needs to bat more with batsmen to figure things out. Him batting between Sangakara and Jayawardene isn’t the worst thing that could happen to his career.
Sri Lanka needs to figure out what they want out of him too. Do we need a version of the 05 Flintoff or Thilan 2.0. Somehow the ideal seems to be somewhere in between.
Quicks, what quicks?
The most significant contribution by a Sri Lankan fast bowler was Dhammika Prasads runs when he opened in the 2nd innings. That is the story of the Sri Lankan pace attack in a nutshell. The new ball should be something that Lakmal and Prasad never see again. They have no consistency and they offer no movement. And if anyone uses the dead pitches argument I have one word for them. Anderson. One of the most important factors going into this series was always going to be Sri Lanka’s ability to quickly break into England’s middle order. Between Strauss, Trott, Bell and Cook they’ve scored a trillion runs recently. And although they didn’t do that, it was never because of our fast bowlers.
Another skill most of the attack lack is the ability to use the older ball. Jayawardene knows this and that is why you hardly see our quicks given the older ball. And again, Anderson, Bresnan and co wins that battle too. We support players getting an extended run but Lakmal and Prasad are not test match bowlers by any stretch of the imagination. They would struggle to make a Bangladesh side at the moment. The time is right for Eranga to get his chance. He is a bowler who can genuinely swing the ball. Add a working Welegedara and SL have a new ball attack that at least promises.
We like Herath. We sort of have to as otherwise Sri Lanka are better off playing 11 batsmen. He is the only bowler who really offers Jayawardene any control right now. Herath seems to have the minimum requirements to call him a spinner. He lands it on a length more often than not and spins it subtly. But the problem with Herath is always going to be that he simply does not threaten the batsmen enough. In some spells you could almost play Herath in your sleep. There is no vicious turn or bounce to unsettle the batsmen. While Swann was quicker through the air in the 2nd innings which caught out a few batsmen, Herath just wheeled away on cruise control. Apart from a few wickets, it was more a case of Englands batsmen just not having the confidence to play spin that made him a threat. It was a classic example of a mental problem for England than any physical threat on the field.
Randiv was also average. There are a lot of things that are going for Randiv, his height, and the fact that he can at times get a bit of drift. But he is not consistent enough to make those elements a threat to top players. Guys like Ajmal are quicker through the air, spin it more, have doosra’ss and teesra’s and are constantly asking questions of the batsmen. Randiv doesn’t need to develop six different variations, as Swann as shown, but he must develop consistency and the ability to put pressure on the batsmen every over if he is to be considered a first pick in the side. He usually ends up ruining good overs with a bad ball. And he releases pressure built up from the other end. He should be given more chances to prove this as he is also another player who gets the revolving selection policy. If the selectors see him as a test specialist that could prove to be a mistake. Randiv is the sort of player who needs to be play consistently to improve. Earmarking him for one format could be the death of him.
1-1 is an fair result. And Jaywardene was lucky to catch England off guard in Galle. But there are plenty of things that need real thought and to be decided upon. Sri Lanka won in Galle after being three down for 15 runs in both innings. Jaywardene should know that this is not going to happen very often. He should also know that lack of early wickets and limp spin will not cut it if he is turn this sinking ship around.