Australia v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, MCG, 3rd day

Sri Lanka flee from credibility

Third-heaviest defeat born out of a performance that resembled a collapsing circus tent

Andrew Fernando at the MCG

December 28, 2012

Comments: 29 | Text size: A | A

Rangana Herath picked up 5 for 96, Australia v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Hobart, 4th day, December 17, 2012
Sri Lanka's plan to bring Rangana Herath into the game later in the match was scuppered by two inept batting displays © Getty Images
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If there is a moment that captures Sri Lanka's first Boxing Day Test in 17 years, it is Dhammika Prasad fleeing from the ball as it approached him at fine leg on day two.

Michael Hussey had hooked a Shaminda Eranga bouncer and, having failed to pick up the ball, Prasad picked a direction to sprint in and chose poorly. That is perhaps unfair to Prasad, whose drive and desperation did him credit on day two, but Sri Lanka have done the opposite of what would have constituted a healthy showing at the MCG, and in doing so, they have hurtled beyond the merely disappointing and run aground on the farcical.

The sense of humour that Sri Lanka's fans have developed over the last two years of Test cricket may be the only quality that will see the team retain their support for the third Test.

Sri Lanka's experienced batsmen were called on by their captain to go big in Melbourne and the game plan on a good pitch was to bat first and spend enough time at the crease to bring Rangana Herath into the game on a wearing pitch. Instead, the batting in both innings bore all the stability of a slowly collapsing circus tent.

At the end of the first day's play, coach Graham Ford suggested the excitement of a Boxing Day Test and Sri Lanka's desperation to do well may have drawn the batting errors that comprised their capitulation. If that is the case, Sri Lanka's top order, who have close to 400 Tests between them, were not far different from an excited child who springs from bed on his Christmas morning, runs straight into a wall and spends the day in a coma. It is not an image a team perpetually struggling to achieve global recognition needs to portray in one of the most widely followed cricket matches of the year.

That a man of Kumar Sangakkara's quality had never played a Test in one of cricket's most iconic venues until he was 35 was considered a minor travesty by some, but after this loss - the third heaviest in the team's history - Sri Lanka's next generation will be fortunate to play a Boxing Day Test at all.

Day three's collapse was even more risible than the first innings effort. Inside two overs, Sri Lanka were 3 for 3 needing to bat for nearly three days to save the Test. They might have had little to gain at that stage but there was not even a hint of courage in their demise and at times batsmen seemed to be looking for the ball to which they could succumb. Sri Lanka's cricketers can be glad that even their most impassioned followers do not descend to the ugliness that sportsmen sometimes have to contend with elsewhere in the subcontinent.

On a pitch Mitchell Johnson made appear a road as he beat out an unruffled 92 not out, he then made appear a lake of fire, as he took 2 for 16 and ended the tour of Sri Lanka's best batsman, Sangakkara - whose innings was the only whimper of protest - striking Prasad painfully in the hand as well.

"We can't be happy at all with the way that we played today," Mahela Jayawardene said after the match. "We haven't played well from day one and we need to all take responsibility for that. Despite having talked about what needed to happen, we haven't put those things into action. Especially the batsmen need to take a lot of responsibility. We needed to fight and we didn't do that. Only Sanga was playing well and even he has now been injured."

The bumbling in the field may have been outshone by Sri Lanka's blinding ineptitude with the bat but an attack whose lack of penetration even Sri Lanka are aware of can hardly be blamed if the chances they do produce are fluffed. Herath created no less than four chances in 39 overs that went at 2.43, three of them clear-cut. Chanaka Welegedara had Shane Watson dropped off his bowling as well, and Watson and Michael Clarke shared four reprieves between them during their 194-run stand - five if you include a shy at the stumps that might have caught Watson short if it had been a direct hit.

Sri Lanka now face the task of mounting a face-saving performance in Sydney, with their morale devastated and their dressing room decimated by injury. They have fled from tenacity, resolve and credibility at the MCG. They cannot afford to flee from the hard truths that are their only avenue to a competitive final Test. A maiden win in Australia seems distant indeed.

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by hnlns on (December 31, 2012, 14:09 GMT)

SL punched out and flattened in 3 days in the Boxing day test !! Certainly, they have no clue about how to play on pitches that have a bit of bounce, carry and lateral movement. Boycott's comment about India playing like Bangladesh in disguise certainly fits SL very well too. All subcontinental teams have this big drawback and isn't it time they do something to address this glaring weakness ?

Posted by gnanzcupid on (December 29, 2012, 9:41 GMT)

I can never control my laughter when sl fans claim that a team without sanga can win a test match at aus, with the contributions from 'youngsters'. Hahaha.

Posted by gnanzcupid on (December 29, 2012, 9:38 GMT)

@all those who blame mahela's captaincy,can you give me one another name(other than sanga) in your team who really has cricketing skills and talent to lead a team? All those who tell the names of so called angelo and herath must be joking in all possible means

Posted by Roger99 on (December 29, 2012, 5:44 GMT)

Its about time Sri Lankan management and selectors take the blame for a shameful cricket team sent here to australia for 2012/2013 season, Pull your head out of the sand and forget about how much money you stand to make. There are so many players that make the grade only to be left out because the other senior players are allowed to play in the IPL. Shame on you. Roger.

Posted by Sinhaya on (December 29, 2012, 3:56 GMT)

@Cpt.Meanster, when touring places like England and Australia, injuries are likely for visitors. I am happy we lost really. For a cricket board which gives no value to test cricket never deserves to see the team winning in Australia. Also, for senior players who are desperate to play IPL, this is a very good lesson. Three teams Eng, SA and Australia who put high value on tests simply are on top and brilliant stuff. MJ is a way too negative captain as shown by him opting to abort the chase against Pakistan in July this year.

Posted by Busie1979 on (December 29, 2012, 3:07 GMT)

Sri Lankan cricket is a shambles right now - Angelo Matthews aside, all of their major contributors are over 30. There are lots of potential youngsters who could play a solid role - Angelo Matthews, Karunaratne, Chandimal, Randiv and Ajantha Mendis. If there are others, I have not seen them play or heard of them as yet. I cannot see how Mendis and Chandimal are not selected. Mendis in particular had a pretty amazing start to his test career and then got written off very quickly. Given the lack of quality pacemen, I think they should play him alongside Herath every time.

Posted by   on (December 29, 2012, 3:02 GMT)

Sanga and Mahela cry at the fact that SL does not get enough chances to play test cricket. When they do they make a total mockery of the game. Very disappointing effort from SL. Its will be another 17 years before sl get a boxing day test in aus. SL does not deserve to tour AUS. They come here and make a joke out of SL cricket. Better stay in SL and play in spin friendly dry crumbling pitches and gloat over meaningless accomplishments. SL is a the laughing stock of all Western Cricket nations.

Posted by   on (December 29, 2012, 1:11 GMT)

sri lanka was never a good test laying nation outside subcontinent..Their players struggle and this is why players like kumar sangakaara and mahela who averages near or over 50 can neer be compared anywhere close to the batting greats..And theirplaying too many matches in the subcontinent is not going to help them..This heavy defeat was expected...

Posted by Chris_P on (December 29, 2012, 0:28 GMT)

@Slysta. Agree with you. This was a performance the Lankans would want to forget, but the real test for them & us as cricket followers is to see if they can bounce back & gain some fighting spirit. We all lose, all of us, it is how we bounce back is the true measure of character. The Lankans displayed fighting qualities in Hobart, you don't lose that overnight, so I am looking forward to a much improved performance in Sydney. MJ, the planets were aligned for him, he still produces world class displays, but it's the displays between these performances that create much worries. With such a closet of well credentialed pacemen in the wings, we look good in this area at least.

Posted by TD_160 on (December 28, 2012, 23:48 GMT)

Australians and Englishman might find it astonishing, but if Sri Lanka wins the one-day series that follows the Test matches, the tour will probably be hailed as success back in Sri Lanka. Most cricket fans there are limited-overs cricket fans, and the team's success is measured by performances in those formats. What they don't want to do is repeat this level of performance in the one-dayers and T20s.

Posted by pat_one_back on (December 28, 2012, 22:50 GMT)

SL's performance bares semblance to Aust in Perth, a 5 day hard fought battle lost and followed by a 3 day capitulation. Their injuries were an insurmountable handicap before they lost Sanga, no need for anyone to read overly into this match.

Posted by pat_one_back on (December 28, 2012, 22:50 GMT)

SL's performance bares semblance to Aust in Perth, a 5 day hard fought battle lost and followed by a 3 day capitulation. Their injuries were an insurmountable handicap before they lost Sanga, no need for anyone to read overly into this match.

Posted by Slysta on (December 28, 2012, 21:06 GMT)

Sri Lankans and supporters should be careful not to over-react to this - they were never the better side going in to the match, and then to lose three players, including the wicket-keeper for their entire time in the field... beyond unfortunate. Following their brave show in Hobart a couple of weeks ago, it's really just time for a deep breath and turning to Sydney for a chance at redemption. As an Australian, I don't think we should be getting too carried away with a comprehensive win over 8.5 Sri Lankans. Sure, it's good to see Johnson do well, but we always knew his best was very good. The problem is (and remains) his worst, when he is unable to offer the side penetration OR control, and undermines the rest of the attack. Jamming the fingers of a player as accomplished as Sangakkara is a good start, and if he can do the same to Alistair Cook on the first morning of the Ashes series, then I'll jump on the MJ bandwagon :).

Posted by Herath-UK on (December 28, 2012, 20:40 GMT)

Let the SLC handle this debacle in a right frame of mind;immediate step is to sit Mahela out of the third test and hand over the captaincy to Dilshan for that game.His loss of form is the MAIN cause for this disaster. Also Mathew should not be made the captain after Mahela;this chap is still immature to hold the reins. Ranil Herath - Kent

Posted by   on (December 28, 2012, 20:28 GMT)

Will they be able to find 11 players willing to front up??

Posted by warneneverchuck on (December 28, 2012, 20:08 GMT)

@ bonobo. Which great u talking abt. Tell me any great in this SL side who avg near 50 in countries outside subcontinent

Posted by   on (December 28, 2012, 17:59 GMT)

SL will never win a test down under and they will never win a world cup final. those are certain

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (December 28, 2012, 17:28 GMT)

I am an Indian fan but I feel sorry for SL. At least I hope now some Lankan fans can understand how it felt for India when they toured England in 2011 and lost many key players due to injuries. Competing in an overseas test series in itself is tough, but when you start dropping like nine pins, it's near impossible to salvage anything. A poor show overall by SL. It's time to plan for the future. A defeat is not the end of things. Hopefully India can also learn from their losses.

Posted by SLMaster on (December 28, 2012, 16:46 GMT)

Good preparation could have been the learn to duck. Aussie players duck under more often than SL. It was very obvious. And only Eranga bowled that suits the pitch. Welegedara was lucky to pick wickets with the type of bowling.

Posted by SLMaster on (December 28, 2012, 16:36 GMT)

They are all playing the bouncers similar to Marvan did. Once or twice is ok. But not all the time. It is not going to work. Remember how Dulip Mendis and Aravinda delt with bouncers. Marvan's technique will not work in Australia. Marvan should bring Dinesh Chandimal's technique in here instead of criticizing him.

Posted by   on (December 28, 2012, 15:08 GMT)

T20 Cricket like IPL and other tournaments are the reason for this state of affairs.....

Posted by landl47 on (December 28, 2012, 14:52 GMT)

A bitter day for Sri Lanka from every perspective. To lose the match, the series and three players is almost as bad as it can possibly get. I don't see any possibility of them bouncing back in this series, but hopefully they can return as a stronger unit the next time they play test cricket- whenever that might be.

Posted by   on (December 28, 2012, 13:36 GMT)

Who cares.. SLC on it's own decided we would no longer play test as a competitive side.. Quite a horrible situation for a SL fan because this devastating defeat occurred right after Mahela said he has lost all faith in SLC. Wow! what a coincidence of the match result it followed.

Posted by   on (December 28, 2012, 13:33 GMT)

I can't believe Dinesh Chandimal hasn't figured in this series. He got unfairly critiicised for one or two antics at Lords last year but surely was showing just the sort of fighting spirit badly needed for a difficult series like this? Plus, he has bags of ability and must be a big part of the future of Sri Lankan cricket if it is going to be competitive at the top level.

Posted by bonobo on (December 28, 2012, 13:13 GMT)

With no Tests in 2013...will we see any of these great batsmen again...if, so this is sad way to go out. They just look like they cant cope. I was looking at some stats, Jayawardene averages something like 30 away from Sri Lanka in the last 3 years....the worst record of all the Sri Lankans. One of my favorite, if not my favorite player of the last decade, a batsman who technique you would think have survived in any era. It cant just be age, they that are all struggling at the same time, I dont know if the mentality of to few Tests and too many short format games, has something to do with it....off stump basics and impatient swinging. Jaya will be 37 by the time Sri Lanka will start playing real opposition again. I can imagine Sanga will keep going and Samaraweera will have to be dragged from the team.....but I dont know if we will see Dilshan, Mahela or the worlds best keeper Prasanna again after this series

Posted by t20-2007 on (December 28, 2012, 12:22 GMT)

Malinga playing BBL...Bring him in the squad!!

Posted by   on (December 28, 2012, 11:53 GMT)

Not much for either side to take from this game really. Sri Lanka were terrible; as bad as I've ever seen them play at Test level. They'd struggle against the West Indies on this sort of form.

Australia know with this win that there is a clear divide between the top Test playing nations (AUS, RSA, ENG) and the rest, with India at the top of the second pack.

A comprehensive win against a poor, poor side.

Posted by   on (December 28, 2012, 11:34 GMT)

Watched last night and apart from the peerless Sangakkara it was a gutless display by SL. Really disappointing, as Andrew Fernando says they'll be lucky if it's not at least another 17 years before they play in another MCG test after this effort.

Posted by WheresTheEmpire on (December 28, 2012, 10:39 GMT)

Hard truths or harshness borne from the bitterness of defeat? It is only a few days since SL pushed Aus deep into the last session of the last day in Hobart so maybe a little perspective is required. Aus conditions are completely different to those in SL and for decades Aus struggled in "final frontier" India and Pakistan for the same reason. The answer may lie in SL having more participation in overseas Emerging Players Tournaments, A-side tours and, where possible, SL players in overseas T20 tournaments. SL produces talented, attractive cricketers and the SL journey to full test status is one of the great cricket stories over the past 50 years. The problem is finding the money to develop the talent.

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