There are no stalemates or high scoring draws in Galle. The world’s iconic cricket ground has produced a result every single time in the last ten years. Since Bangladesh held onto a draw in 2013, Galle has staged 22 Tests and Sri Lanka have won 13 of those and their opponents have won the remaining nine.
This week was no different in Galle and Pakistan well deserved their victory and Sri Lanka were licking their wounds as a few errors cost them the game.
Obviously, the dropped catches, missed stumping and batting collapses will be highlighted for Sri Lanka’s four wicket loss and there’s no hiding from that.
More worrying is Sri Lanka’s bowlers’ inability to create dot ball pressure. There were just 12 maidens in the Galle Test all bowlers put together in both innings whereas Pakistan had 29 maidens.
You have got to admire how well-prepared Pakistan came into this series. Their tactics were outstanding. With former Sri Lanka Head Coach Mickey Arthur at the helm as Director of Cricket in Pakistan, he had passed on the blueprint on how to beat Sri Lanka in Galle. More importantly, what they need to do to overcome Prabath Jayasuriya although the left-arm spinner didn’t play under Arthur.
Jayasuriya in six Tests in Galle has taken 53 wickets. That’s a rich haul no doubt and more importantly, in every game he has played there he’s produced a five-wicket haul in an innings helping Sri Lanka to dominate their opponents.
This week was the only time he failed to take a five-wicket haul in Galle. Pakistan’s batters attacked him relentlessly. Jayasuriya ties down the opposition by bowling maiden overs and eventually having pushed the opposition to a defensive mindset provides regular breakthroughs.
Jayasuriya did claim seven wickets in the recent game but was expensive as more than 200 runs were scored off him and he went at a rate of more than four runs an over. He was never allowed to settle down and get into a groove which made him more dangerous.
Saud Shakeel has been a real find for Pakistan. At 101 for five, Pakistan were staring down the barrel. Shakeel executed his team’s game plan to perfection by attacking the spinners with exceptional use of the feet. He was well backed up by Agha Salman as they put on a record partnership.
Once the stand was broken, Shakeel changed gears and he was content to farm the strike from the tail. Sri Lanka blundered by not attacking the set batsman and only targeting the tail. As we have seen more often, why the tail stitches significant partnership against Sri Lanka is because of this ploy and they need to move away from the tactic as it is costing them dearly.
Questions also have been asked about Ramesh Mendis. He was expensive too and went for 225 runs with each of his overs costing over four runs. Ramesh offering too many loose balls have been a point of discussion for some time, but patience with a player of his caliber will do the team a lot of good. To be frank, there was much improvement from Ramesh when it comes to his control compared to the last time and why he gave away so many runs was because Pakistan were in an attacking mindset.
Among off-spinners there are no significant names staking claims to take Ramesh’s spot. Now that Sri Lanka have invested on him, they need to back him too to come good and given his work ethic and focus, you sense he will be able to turn things around.
While Pakistan came into the series well prepared, Sri Lanka were underprepared as there was little break between the World Cup Qualifiers and the Test series.
Half the team had been engaging in the white ball series and it’s not easy to adapt and with very little breathing space between the games Sri Lanka’s batters need to get their act together.
Vice-captain Dhananjaya de Silva was a treat to watch and he’s proving to be a vital member of both white and red ball sides taking games deep with his composed batting.
There’s lot of criticism that has come the batsmen’s way but there was very little they could do against the quality of Naseem Shah and Shaheen Afridi in the first innings. Second innings though was a different story and Pakistan’s catching was outstanding. Catches, they say, win matches.
The seamers were a disappointment, especially Kasun Rajitha. There’s no fast bowler who has developed so much than Kasun in the last two years and he’ll be disappointed with his effort.
It would have been interesting to see how Pakistan would have taken on Asitha Fernando. He bowls so well with both the new and old ball and you wonder whether Pakistan would have been allowed to score as freely as they did had Asitha featured in the team. He’s expected to return at SSC having recovered from dengue.
All in all, it was a fabulous Test match and Sri Lanka missed out on an opportunity to move up the ICC Rankings. They have been lingering in the second half of the table for quite sometime and a win this week would have taken them to sixth slot from number seven.