I am sure that all of us here at Gecko (apart from a certain South African within the ranks!) will be most disappointed at the Sri Lankan cricket team’s crushing at the hands of the Proteas over the last three days. Whilst, Sri Lanka were widely acknowledged as underdogs in this series, the manner and margin of the loss is both disappointing and concerning.
In short, Sri Lanka were outclassed in all facets of the game by a strong South African side. Day 1 saw their batting blown away by Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander, with the help of some injudicious strokeplay. Whilst the seam bowlers toiled hard and persevered, they couldn’t quite hit the right areas often enough to restrict the South African score on a helpful pitch. The second innings batting was more of a massacre than the first, with Philander again scything through the line-up with probing seam bowling. Just to top it all off, Mahela Jayawardene was run out, stuck on 9,999 career test runs.
It will definitely be tough for the team to bounce back from this result, but they will have to find an answer. Although Dilshan and co. will maintain the fighting talk and spirit throughout (largely because they have no alternative), Sri Lanka do not have a realistic chance of winning this series. The side is in a transition phase and rebuilding, which, as with every cricketing nation, will take time. In my opinion, the potential positives that can be gained from this series are: firstly, a return in confidence to the batting line-up and secondly, the emergence of one or more talented seam bowlers.
The batting line-up has struggled for some months now with no one showing any kind of consistent form, Kumar Sangakkara’s performance against Pakistan excepted. Of the batsmen I have seen represent the national side in recent times, I believe the top six batsmen that played this test are in fact the best to do the job right now. It’s just a question of them finding their form and confidence again, something they need to do very soon. Reckless shots, like those played by Dilshan and Angelo Mathews in the first innings, need to be abolished.
It’s undeniable that the Proteas possess a bowling attack superior to their Sri Lankan counterparts. One cannot suddenly turn the current Sri Lankan seamers into a bowler like Dale Steyn with pace and mastery of swing, or Morne Morkel with height and bounce. But I think the guys can take example from how Vernon Philander bowled in this test, bowling consistently in the corridor of uncertainty and hitting the seam to get movement from the pitch, at less than express pace. Dilhara Fernando and Thisara Perera were able to achieve this at times, but not with enough consistency. Angelo Mathews bowled well but is still hampered by injury and so didn’t get through many overs. Chanaka Welagedera bowled too wide, and didn’t seem to hit the pitch hard enough to extract movement.
The next test will be played at Kingsmead, Durban, another venue which often favours seam bowlers. It appears that Dhammika Prasad and Nuwan Kulasekera are joining the squad to cover for the injuries sustained by the quicks. If it were my decision, I would bring in Prasad to replace Welagedera and leave the rest of the side unchanged. Too often in the past has chopping and changing our seamers prevented any kind of development in this area.
Here’s hoping for an improved showing on Boxing Day…