Same old Sri Lanka Cricket

by Rex Clementine

383

There was an opportunity for Sri Lanka to overtake Pakistan in ICC Test Rankings if the hosts had won one Test match in the recent series. Sri Lanka could have moved up to number six. For a team that has languished in the bottom half of the points table across all formats, this would have been a real shot in the arm. 

But, Pakistan were a breath of fresh air. Their batting took Prabath Jayasuriya and co. by surprise. By the time the team had found remedies for the problem, the tourists had a firm grip on the series.  

We are not too sure how long Pakistan is going to play this attacking brand of cricket, a brainchild of Mickey Arthur, our former coach and now Director of Cricket in Pakistan.   

We shall know exactly whether this will pay off when Pakistan tours Australia later this year for the Boxing Day Test at MCG and New Year Test at SCG. Their batting might let them down under but what will stand in good stead is their catching.   

Pakistan’s catching this series was stunning, not something that we have seen from them over the years. 

As for Sri Lanka, they have been the same old Sri Lanka. Batting collapses, injured fast bowlers, dropped catches, and embarrassing defeats.  

Pakistan pulled off half chances in Galle while Sri Lanka were a flop on the field. Had they taken those chances, this series would have ended differently. 

There have been calls to fix our domestic cricket to help the team compete well on the big stage. There were efforts to restrict the number of teams that played First Class cricket gradually, but we are back to square one with the First-Class structure expected to be bloated again with teams being promoted.  

The Provincial Tournament that was said to be the catalyst for selection for international cricket hasn’t yielded the results it was expected to. 

Four batting collapses in as many innings is not an excuse and remedies need to be found to address the issue. How we are going to do it is the problem with no more Test matches scheduled for this year. 

Pakistan at times have carried bowling attacks that were world-class. The current attack by no means is an unplayable one. Naseem Shah and Shaheen Afridi did bowl some terrific spells, but Pakistan’s spin attack wasn’t anything sensational. 

Even the most diehard Pakistan fans are surprised that how Noman Ali picked up seven wickets in an innings. Noman didn’t get any prodigious turn, sharp bounce, or bamboozled the batsmen with his variation.  

The only thing he did was to keep pitching the ball in one area and Sri Lanka’s batters were happy to throw away their wickets. In the end, he finished with career-best figures of seven wickets. 

Successive Sri Lankan teams have followed a similar blueprint to win Tests at SSC. If you win the toss, you must put a total in excess of 400 and once you do that, you dictate terms in the game. But there’s one glitch. At SSC, you always give the first hour to the bowlers.  

Sri Lanka forgot this cardinal rule. On day one they had lost four wickets before the morning drinks break and from thereon, they were playing catch up. By the time the wicket had settled, Sri Lanka were down to their lower middle order. 

Of all the people, Dimuth Karunaratne, who plays for SSC, should know the conditions at his home ground better. The captain pushed one to the covers and called for a suicidal single and from the moment Nishan Madushka was run out Pakistan had total control of the game. 

Despite the entire second day being washed out for rain and more than one hour lost to rain on day one, Sri Lanka failed to stretch the game to the final day. That proves how average they have been at SSC. 

Lightening struck twice on Thursday morning after Pakistan declared with just five wickets down as Sri Lanka’s batting collapsed again. 

Barring Madushka, who got a good ball, the rest of the batters fell for poor strokes. Sri Lanka should seriously think about their choice of number three. Over the years, they have used their most reliable batter at three.  

Kusal Mendis clearly lacks the temperament to bat at three. You’ve got to battle it out if a wicket falls early at one drop rather than playing too many shots and in the second innings, Mendis got out trying to go inside out. That wasn’t the need of the hour. 

Much more was expected from the senior duo of Dimuth Karunaratne and Dinesh Chandimal than the returns they managed this series. 

Dhananjaya de Silva did get runs yes but was dismissed for poor shots in both innings of the second Test. Pakistan were toying with his patience placing fielders in a such way as inviting him to go after the bowling. Instead of putting his head down and building a partnership with the set Angelo Mathews, he took the bait and fell for the trap.  

That summed up the series. Pakistan came with well-drawn-up plans and was disciplined. As for Sri Lanka, they expected to turn up at the venue and seemed like warming up for the LPL.