At the end of the 2nd Test, Sri Lanka had suffered two heavy defeats against England, with a game yet to to be played in Lord’s. The conclusion of the 2nd test indicated that the coaching team/the management seemed to lack a plan to tackle the best bowling attack in Test cricket.

Contributor – Reza Thahir

The Sri Lankan think tank was expected to come up with an intelligent, sensible plan to handle the dangerous English pace attack in helpful seaming conditions, but the 1st 3 innings in the Test series, were some of Sri Lanka’s worst performances with the bat overseas.

The simple batting plan should be for the openers to bat out the 1st 20 overs and see off the new ball targeting 60 to 70 runs before lunch without taking too many risks. Thirimanne should be allowed to bat at No.3 as he’s the best to handle pace, swing and seam because of his superior technique, footwork, solidarity and back foot play. Though Kusal Mendis batted really well, Chandimal and Mathews struggled in the first 3 innings and weren’t comfortable against bounce, pace, swing or seam. Mathews’ obvious weakness against the new ball was well exposed in the 1st 3 innings while Chandimal being the keeper, should ideally have batted at no.6.Thirimanne batted with complete control in all 4 innings and didn’t show any kind of uneasiness. It was a poor decision to bat Thirimanne at no.6 in the 1st 3 innings which exposed Chandimal and Mathews to the new ball too early.

The plan worked in the 2nd innings of the 2nd test and it was heartening to see 475 runs scored after trailing England by 397 runs. Kaushal and Mathews made very good fifties and Chandimal bounced back with a brilliant hundred. The real surprise was Herath batting like a top order player and scoring a half century with complete authority. His innings produced the entertainment factor in the game and he helped Chandimal as they put on 116 runs for the 7th wicket.

In both Test matches, our bowling was below par to say the least; our bowlers seemed to lack endurance, stamina, temperament and heart. The major flaw was the inability to bowl a proper line and length for a prolonged period and it was frustrating to watch our bowlers spray the ball all over the place at times.

The difference between the SL bowlers and England bowlers is evident when you look at the lines and lengths bowled. SL bowlers bowled a majority of their deliveries short, way outside the off stump and on the leg stump, with maybe 20-30% of deliveries directed to the bat and on a length or back of the length on a 4th stump line (2 or 3 inches outside off stump) whereas the England bowlers bowled 90% of their deliveries on a length or back of a length at the 4th stump.

With this kind of indisciplined bowling Sri Lanka Cricket will suffer for sure in any format of the game. Lakmal has been bowling the same way for the past 6 years without an inch of improvement; Eranga was better before his injury but has been mediocre since his return. Pradeep was okay but not really threatening, Chameera wasn’t aware of the areas he was needed to bowl but steady with his pace. He needs to learn quickly about bowling consistently on a length or back of a length at a 4th stump line. Prasad was dearly missed as he has been our leading bowler for the past 24 months in Tests and was the chief destroyer in that historical Leeds Test 2 years ago. The replacement for Chameera is Chaminda Bandara and I think the SL think tank should go for a change and pick Bandara in place of Eranga or Lakmal. Herath continues to struggle in bouncy wickets as usual and wasn’t hitting his length and getting his flight right consistently. It will be interesting to see if SL will drop Herath in Lord’s if it’s a green top after Siriwardene picked up 3 wickets or retain him after his superior batting performance.

The English batting isn’t as strong as their bowling, Compton and Vince, the 2 middle order batsmen have been struggling to make a mark in the Test team. SL should have targeted the fragile middle order and applied relentless pressure on their star batsman Joe Root. But unfortunately it’s their lower middle order players, wicket keeper Bairstow and Ali who have been the star batsmen, making hundreds coming in at no.6 and no.7. SL have also struggled to get rid of the tail and have conceded lots of runs adding to their frustration.

The Sri Lanka think tank needs to come up with a better bowling plan if we are to compete at Lord’s and save face. We should try to create things rather than wait for things to happen.