Sri Lanka struggle with the Bounce in Harare!

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2016-11-20

After an impressive performance in the tests and a comprehensive win in the opening triangular series game, the Sri Lankans should be utterly disappointed with their effort in the outing against the West Indies. Whilst the Lankan bowling can't be faulted for the loss, the batsmen, who did impress up to that point, need to accept the full responsibility for the inability of the team to have overhauled a gettable score on a good batting surface.

One has to concede for the first time on the tour the Lankan batting was tested with something different to what they had encountered up to that point, and that was short pitched bowling! Whilst the West Indian fast bowlers, and especially Holder, at best was a lively medium fast, and Brathwaite too no more than that in pace, what unsettled the Lankan batting was the extra bounce the tall fast bowlers were able to extract from a surface that looked slow. The only bowler of genuine pace was Gabriel who bowled at a near ninety miles per hour. The rest of the West Indians were brisk without being express and the Lankan batsmen after the early collapse simply succumbed to the pressure that was built by their opponents.

Looking at the two sides and on a man to man basis, Sri Lanka were the favourites on many fronts. Firstly, having been in the country for close to three weeks and having played all their games at Harare, they should have known the conditions much better than their counterparts. Besides, the West Indies were an inexperienced side and with three debutants in the game, had lost one of their most experienced players available in Darren Bravo just before the tournament due to a spat he had with the President of the West Indian Board over a twitter posting. Bravo was withdrawn from the tour and that couldn't have helped in the planning and the team morale! Hence, the Lankans had greater openings to exploit and winning the toss was also a bonus though one didn't expect the pitch to play too differently when the second half commenced. Therefore, it was plain that the Sri Lankans with their in form batting line up were the better equipped out of the two teams going into the game!

However, what transpired in the match was something completely different and surprising! Having just two hundred and twenty seven to defend the West Indies employed an aggressive approach, and that was to come hard at the Lankans using their taller fast bowlers which worked perfectly. What is worrying for the Sri Lankans is not what lays ahead in the series as one can't expect Bulawayo to be bouncy as it's a flat surface on the slower side. However the impending South African tour where the pitches are definitely greener and quicker and the bowlers more experienced and faster will not be an opportunity the current line-up would cherish. My conclusion is based on the last game. The bouncy out swing was a weapon that was very effective and after the early inroads what was even more disappointing was the manner the Lankan batsmen, including the experienced skipper, was pushed into a shell.

The spin bowlers of the West Indies were never the frightening type, though Nurse used the conditions well to grab his three scalps on debut. The mistake the Lankans did was not having partnerships and also adopting a defensive approach. Dickwella looked the only batsmen from the top willing to play the attacking role and he was good against both pace and spin until he perished playing the ramp shot. The rest of the batting, especially skipper Tharanga, struggled to force the pace and also look for singles which made the run rate swell and also transferred the pressure back to the Lankans. Pathirana batting down the order showed plenty of promise as a batsman and also exhibited that with improvisation and intelligence the West Indian bowlers could be scored off and weren't unplayable. His dismissal looking to force the pace was unfortunate at a time when the Lankans had a slight outside chance.

Overall, I am sure the Lankan batting will need to step up and this will be so particularly when they play the West Indies the next time. Whilst the batting unit can be excused for one bad day, the critical factor was it came at a time when the Lankans wanted to move ahead with their second win and in their first game against the West Indies. This defeat doesn't mean that its curtains or alarm bells for Sri Lanka, though what it really means is that a different approach should be adopted in the games ahead. Hence, with a bit more planning and lot more commitment the Lankans should be able to overcome the challenge. At least that's my view, though only time will tell us the precision of it.

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