Sri Lanka could have done better

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It may sound as an insult or a lack of confidence in the team, but in reality the knowledgeable cricket fan, critique, player, coach, commentator, writer etc. etc. knew that the South African tour by Sri Lanka happening at the moment was a tough assignment. If Sri Lanka was expected to win the series then that was aiming too high. South Africa despite being depleted by the absence of some of their key players had just beaten Australia in Australia which was a massive confidence boost for the team.

Besides, the pitches that we have always spoken about was a factor in the series as Sri Lanka were coming off a tour of Zimbabwe where the decks were more tilted towards batsmen than anything else. Also the general nature of pitches in Sri Lanka are brown and flat than what we can expect overseas, especially in countries such as South Africa. However, the pitch at Port Elizabeth wasn't a typical South African surface that has life. Instead it was low and slower but nipped around all the time keeping the fast bowlers in the game.

On such a surface I believe this Sri Lankan side had the arsenal to survive and compete. The need was for the batsmen to put their hands up and be counted, and to do that commitment and technique were the required ingredients. If one looks at the batting order of the Sri Lankans I am sure they do have the technique factor in full supply; hence, there can't be an issue there. Then it had to be the commitment, and of course, the shot selections at critical moments.

In the first innings though Karunaratne dragged a wide delivery and Kusal Perera had a poor shot selection, the rest down to Dananjaya de Silva were done by very fine bowling. As the Sri Lankan fast bowlers found out on day one, day two also had plenty for the quicks, and the South African fast bowlers were good on it. But let me add that the pitch was by no means unplayable, and one would expect test quality batsmen to score runs, and that too by not blasting the bowling but with a more measured approach. One felt that Dananjaya de Silva was the only one who played such a game whilst the rest didn't seem to have a proper rhythm to their game.

In the second innings when the pitch was much flatter and easier to bat, the approach of the Sri Lankan batsmen were most disappointing. Anyone who knows a thing or two about batting will tell you that in an innings it's the first twenty to thirty runs that are hardest to get. If you survive such a phase then you have done the hard work and could carry one for something bigger. On day four when the Sri Lankans chased the four hundred plus target, they had many who got in and then got out. Karunaratne who was foolishly run out really gave the South Africans the break they wanted. When the openers were together they never looked like getting out and the pitch was as flat as one could imagine. Then Kaushal Silva and Kusal Mendis were dismissed when looking good for something quite big.

In the case of Mendis he can't be excused for ever attempting the "ramp shot" as they call it. What was the need to play it when the Lankans needed a staying in approach cutting out all the frills in one's batsmanship. That dismissal, along with Kusal Perera's two failures, have to be ranked the most disappointing aspect of the Sri Lankan batting, though a few other issues too could be pointed out. As for Kusal Perera, one gets the feeling that he is not cut out for number three as his game is more suited down the order. So why not he keep wickets and bat at number seven and get one of Sri Lanka's best batsmen currently Dinesh Chandimal to bat at four and be free of the gloves? This should help as Chandimal has the capacity to play match winning innings and should be used up the order at least at four. Hence, giving him the gloves and burdening him will not help. Kusal Mendis should be reverted back to number three with Dananjaya de Silva at six which will give the batting the stability look.

Naturally the key for Sri Lanka going forward will be the batting and that has to be ironed out, and with the pitches in the next two games expected to be livelier than what we saw in the first game, the challenges are going to be endless. However, I believe the Lankans have in them what it takes to rise from the Ashes, and as I did say just before the tour to England, Sri Lanka will need a few heroes to put their hands up.

After a decent 2016 the Lankans should hope for such a situation to begin 2017 on a winning note. Let me, whilst wishing the Sri Lankan team a happy and a winning new year, conclude today by wishing you that 2017 will be a year full of blessings both materially and spiritually. Have a great year ahead.




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