Sri Lanka’s 206-run first Test debacle must certainly raise question marks in Skipper Angelo Mathews camp. While the Sri Lankan bowlers did a good job dismissing the opposition for 286 in the first innings, the batting floundering for 201 in reply sqaundered the good work of the bowlers, thus putting the onus on them when South Africa batted a second time to declare on an imposing 406 for 6 wickets. Only relative newcomer Dhananjaya played a disciplined innings to top score with 43 followed by skipper Mathews’ 39 with Dinsh Chandimal at the top order unable to convert his 28 in to bigger things. That apart, it was all pathetic with the top four of Dimuth Karunaratne (05), Kaushal Silva (16), Kusal Janith Perera (07) and Kusal Mendis perishing for a duck in that order.
Cricket is all about capitalizing on the inroads made, and the inability of the Sri Lankan batsmen to drive home a first innings advantage that the bowlers had wrested on the back of fast bowler Suranga Lakmal’s gallant 5 for 63 was one of those occasions when bowlers frustrate at fortunes blown away. It was little reward for Lakmal as the South African batsmen did capitalize on the priceless 81-run first innings lead the home team enjoyed where margins do realistically measure up in the odds swaying initiatives. Consequently South Africa roared with openers Cook (117) and Elgar (52) flogging their way to the perfectly imposing rubbing salt in to the wounds 116-run alliance that was box seat stuff. Second time out, that the ideal openers start Sri Lanka was looking for did come with Karunaratne and Silva putting on 87 for the first wicket, but was thrown away by the indiscretion of the former sacrificing all the hard work and what could have been translated to winning ways for self and team by a stupid run out. It was the beginning of the end. Though Kusal Mendis and Angelo Mathews came together in a 75-run alliance to take the score to 193, whatever semblance of a chance Sri Lanka had of saving theatch evaporated with Mendis sacrificing his wicket with a needless swipe. That Dhananjaya De Silva, at No.7, once again resisted the South African bowlers in a 60-minute stay for 22 did underscore the right hander’s maturity given the few Test match outings he has made.
At the time of writing the Sri Lankan camp was welcomingly toying with the idea of slotting Dhananjaya De Silva at No.3 for the second Test at Newcastle – sweet reward for the type of technique and concentration depth he has displayed in a continued sequence of consistency since he walked in to the team in the home series against Australia capped by a series winning century. Analytically, Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva need to put in the discipline that opning batsmen do where the judgement of running between the wickets is an integral part that openers in particular need to be schooled in where partnerships right up front make the difference. Next the opting for Kusal Janith Perera at No.3 has proved to be futile where his aggressive tendency has been his undoing while Mendis needs to be schooled by the expert tutors in the Lankan camp for the need for discipline and calm instead of playing to the gallery and needlessly gifting his wicket to bowlers. A batsman with all the trimmings of big scores before him to do so is a tragedy for self and team. The inform Upul Tharanga, who skippered Sri Lanka to an ODI series triumph over Zimbabwe leading from the front, deserves to be in contention who has the experience and some record Test match innings to his credit.
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-
By Srian Obeyesekere