Sri Lanka’s batting display in the two match Test series in Bangladesh has been a treat to watch as the team posted formidable totals in a bid to secure the series.
Angelo Mathews has been the mainstay of the side posting big hundreds. His appetite for runs has seen him being involved in long vigils and he’s not just satisfied with posting three figures. Deprived of being part of the nation’s white ball teams, you tend to get the feeling that the former captain has turned a new leaf in his career, making the most of his limited opportunities.
Joining him during that 199 run stand in Dhaka was Dinesh Chandimal. Not often do you see Chandimal outscoring his senior partner but on Thursday he appeared to have got a measure of the bowling. He’s been given a raw deal in recent years and it defies logic how he can be part of the white ball teams and not the Test team. Having said that, it was his first Test hundred since 2018 and it was a timely one.
Chandimal did have an opportunity in Chittagong too as he was involved in another big partnership with Mathews there too. But on that occasion he threw it away on a placid track. But his second innings effort of unbeaten 39 when the chips were down helped Sri Lanka to hold their heads high in a crunch situation.
Oshada Fernando has delivered too on his comeback trial while skipper Dimuth Karunaratne has been solid at the top of the order. Kusal Mendis and Dhananjaya de Silva have been in good nick too although they haven’t been able to post big scores.
The top six in this series have staked claims for their places which is good ahead of back to back series against Australia and Pakistan. When Pathum Nissanka returns to the side, the selectors will be in a quandary as to who to leave out. It will be a tough choice and in all probability Kusal Mendis will get the axe with Oshada Fernando dropping down to number three. Or the other option is to axe Niroshan Dickwella and hand the gloves to Dinesh Chandimal and move him further down the line-up. If that happens, that will be a cruel blow to Dickwella as he played a pivotal role in the drawn Chittagong Test.
Whether our batting actually deserves adulation or this is all sweet talk will be known when the team takes on the Aussies next month. Bangladesh’s bowling has been hardly threatening while Australia will be a different kettle of fish. How Sri Lanka will overcome the pressure the tourists exert will be vital. Last time Sri Lanka played a strong team at home was when England toured the island in 2021 and the batsmen were not covering themselves in glory against spin, often cracking under pressure and throwing away their wickets.
Among the bowlers, Kasun Rajitha has been the standout performer. He was deadly with the new ball and did the containment as the innings progressed. Once the ball got older, his discipline fetched him wickets. He had come in as concussion substitute for Vishwa Fernando and by the end of the series looked a much improved bowler. Asitha Fernando backed him up well and the team has a decent pace department to rely on which is exactly what Chris Silverwood promised us at the start of his stint.
The discipline the quicks have been able to maintain when there is little help from the track is commendable. The fact that the seamers outperformed the spin bowlers is quite exciting as throughout history we have depended heavily on spin rather than pace for Test wins. Even during some of our most memorable overseas Test wins like The Oval 1998, Trent Bridge 2006, Basin Reserve 2007 and Kingsmead 2011 spinners dominated.
Spin in fact was disappointing. You don’t expect spinners to run through sides but at least they need to create the dot ball pressure by being disciplined. That was a drawback during the series. There are no magic formulas to keep things tight and it comes with hours of spot bowling.
The fact remains that all our spinners are raw and inexperienced and they need to be persevered and allowed to develop. That is what makes you wonder whether we were too harsh on Dilruwan Perera. The 39-year-old veteran with dodgy knees wasn’t able to live up to all fitness expectations but he used to win games and that should be paramount. Having said that, he did himself no favours with his sloppy fielding, carless running between the wickets and overall lethargic attitude.
It is interesting that you find you have a very settled spin department in white ball cricket while Test cricket our bowlers are struggling to find their feet. The answer is not taking the white ball players and telling them to play Test match cricket. We need to let the red ball specialists develop without looking for quick fixes.