Sri Lanka’s World Test Championship cycle for 2021-23 came to an end with an innings and 58-run loss at the hands of New Zealand. From doing well enough to nearly make it into the final, to suffering an innings defeat to end things, let’s take a look at how the cycle went for the Lankans.
Overview of SL’s performance
Sri Lanka played 6 series across the cycle, 3 home and 3 away. Unlike some of the ‘bigger’ nations, all 6 of Sri Lanka’s series consisted of 2 Tests each and alongside Bangladesh, they played the least number of Tests in the cycle. Sri Lanka won 2 (West Indies & Bangladesh), lost 2 (India & New Zealand) and drew 2 (Australia & Pakistan) series and ultimately finished in 5th place overall, despite being in contention for the final until their very last series. In terms of matches, they won 5, lost 6 and drew 1.
They did have one of the tougher schedules in the Championship, having to face both of last year’s finalists, India and New Zealand as well as a formidable side in Bangladesh away from home. Having finished in 8th position in the last cycle, they can be reasonably satisfied with their run this time around, coming into their last series with an opportunity to get to the final.
However, they will be disappointed with dropping points to Australia and Pakistan at home. Two 2-0 wins in those series, which finished 1-1, would have put them ahead of India on the points table while two draws would have seen them finish in 4th place overall, leapfrogging England.
On the batting front, the experienced heads were the ones to put their hands up, with Dimuth Karunaratne, Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews leading the charge. Skipper Karunaratne finished with most runs (1,054) and was the only one to cross the 1000-run mark. He also finished amongst the top 4 run-getters in terms of openers, behind Usman Khawaja, Kraigg Braithwaite and Tom Latham (all of whom played more Tests during the same period.)
Dinesh Chandimal also had a stellar run, with 958 runs under his belt in just 10 games. His incredible 206* vs Australia was the highest individual score by a Sri Lankan and the 4th highest overall. Mathews was the only batter to cross the 3-figure mark thrice while disappointingly, apart from this trio and Dhananjaya de Silva, none of the other Sri Lankan batters managed to score a century.
|Dhananjaya de Silva||11||21||753||155*||39.63||2||3|
In the bowling department, the spinners dominated proceedings, with Ramesh Mendis and Prabath Jayasuriya leading the way, establishing themselves as the first-choice spinners midway through the cycle, replacing Lasith Embuldeniya who started off as the leader of the pack. Of the frontline bowlers, NONE have played all 12 Tests in the cycle, with Mendis topping the charts with 8 games. He also picked up the most wickets (38) followed closely by Jayasuriya (33), who has had an incredible start to his career, with 4 5-wicket hauls in 5 games.
Pacemen Asitha Fernando and Kasun Rajitha also feature in the top 5 wicket-takers for Sri Lanka, having put together some promising performances, especially in Bangladesh where they forged a win in difficult conditions. Fernando also has the best strike-rate amongst the bowlers, even better than that of Jayasuriya, and the best bowling figures in an innings during this cycle, signaling his potency with the red ball.
- Top all-rounder – Dhananjaya de Silva (753 runs, 10 wickets, 18 catches)
- Most dismissals – Niroshan Dickwella (22 catches, 4 stumpings)
- Most catches (non-wk) – Dhananjaya de Silva (18)
- Biggest partnership – Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal (199 v Bangladesh, Mirpur)
- Highest total – 554 (v Australia, Galle)
- Lowest total – 109 (v India, Bengaluru)
- Biggest win – Innings and 39 runs (v Australia, Galle)
- Biggest loss – Innings and 222 runs (v India, Mohali)
Dinesh Chandimal 206* v Australia in Galle
After coming into the series with full confidence of bowling over the opposition thanks to Sri Lanka’s 3-0 win the last time Australia visited, they were in for a rude shock when the visitors came away with a 10-wicket win in the 1st Test. Chandimal got a duck in that game but tore the Aussie attack apart in the second, getting to his 1st Test double century with a 4,6,6 to Mitchell Starc (one of the sixes landed on the road outside the ground). It was an imperious innings which helped Sri Lanka to a series leveling innings win.
Prabath Jayasuriya 12/177 vs Australia in Galle
The same game produced one of the most memorable debuts for a Sri Lankan, when Prabath Jayasuriya ripped through the visitors’ lineup to pick up an incredible 12 wickets in the game. The left-arm spinner had languished on the edge of the Sri Lankan side for years and delivered to perfection when finally given the opportunity. He picked up a six-wicket haul in either innings, including the prized wickets of Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne as Australia were bowled out within a couple of sessions on day 4.
Asitha Fernando 10/144 vs Bangladesh in Mirpur
Asitha Fernando’s 10/144 was perhaps one of the best performances from a pace bowler in Bangladesh ever. In just his 5th Test, the right-arm quick engineered a famous win in tough conditions in Mirpur after the 1st Test had ended in a drawn run-fest. His 10/144 was only the 2nd 10-wicket haul for a paceman in the cycle and the only one in spin-friendly conditions, with Shaheen Afridi’s 10/94 coming in Kingston. Thanks to his burst of 6/51 in the 2nd innings, Sri Lanka completed a 10-wicket win. They were much-needed points for Sri Lanka too, with Bangladesh being notoriously tough to beat in their own conditions.
What’s next for Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka have 4 more Tests scheduled for 2023, with 2-match series against Ireland and Pakistan to come. Their 2023-25 WTC cycle will begin with the series in Pakistan at home, with Ireland not being a part of the Test Championship.
During this cycle, Sri Lanka are scheduled to play 12 Tests once again, facing Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand at home and traveling to Bangladesh, South Africa and England. They will not face India and the West Indies in this cycle.