Australia v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Sydney January 2, 2013

Batsmen need to take control - Mahela

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Chief among Sri Lanka's woes after the deflating loss in Melbourne has been the form of its top order, whose torrid two-month stretch in Tests culminated in a gutless 156 and 103 at the MCG. As the final Test approaches, the batting appears just as brittle as the severely depleted pace attack. Their opponents have seemingly sensed easy prey, and opted for four seamers on a track that has traditionally been the most suited to spin in Australia. 



Sri Lanka's susceptibility to high-quality pace bowling was apparent even before they arrived down under, as they played out a drawn two-match series at home against New Zealand. Twice in their four innings there, Sri Lanka succumbed five wickets for less than 70 and were 102 for 4 in another. The only innings in which Sri Lanka crossed 50 unscathed was in their fourth innings chase of 92 in Galle, during which New Zealand's best bowler did not take the field because of a niggling injury. In Australia, they have lost four wickets for less than 100 thrice. 



Before the tour, it was the inexperience of the visitor's pace attack that had invited bleak assessments, but Sri Lanka's batting failures have only compounded their torment, as they have been forced to defend meagre totals on pitches that have largely suited batting. The prospect of a spin-friendly SCG surface always presented the best chance for Sri Lanka to win their first Test in Australia, but the visiting batsmen must extend the game to the last two days for Rangana Herath's left-arm spin to be effective, and they cannot afford the first-innings deficits that have seen them effectively relinquish any hopes of victory early in the match. 



There was a time where Sri Lanka's modus operandi in home Tests was to bat first, bat big and then unleash the spinners on the opposition on a wearing pitch, and despite his batsmen's recent form, that is the blueprint Mahela Jayawardene still hopes to follow in Sydney. 


"The best way that we can win a Test match is to create a situation for Rangana on a slow turner," he said. "We have to make sure that until the fourth or fifth day, we execute a good game plan and we stay in the game.

"The last two or three Tests have been a bit of a blip, but our strong point is our batting. That's where our experience lies and that's where we've controlled a lot of Test matches. We need to get that control back, whether it's with the mental side of it or the technical side, it's something that we need to address."



Shortcomings in both technique and temperament led to the collapses in Melbourne, with several batsmen out playing injudicious strokes in the first innings, while others struggled to handle the bounce and pace in Melbourne. Sri Lanka opted to train only twice in the five days between the matches, not wanting to risk further injury, but Jayawardene said his side had taken the time off to assess their weaknesses and regroup mentally.



"To try and get over that Test match [MCG Test] was the initial thing. It is pretty hard to shake off a loss like that, but I think it's also about individuals taking responsibility and knowing what they have to do. If you really sit down and look at what we've achieved through this series, it's not that hard to say, 'No we haven't done enough,' and that we need to really stand up and be counted. It has to come from within themselves as well.



"Teams do go through things like that and it happened to us at the Centurion. When we were in South Africa we lost in two and a half days and we bounced back to win the next Test. What we saw in Melbourne was that Australia had different gameplans against different players. The guys have to realise what they need to do in those situations. We've spoken about that."

Among the top order batsmen yet to make a significant score in the series is opener Dimuth Karunaratne, who will retain his place for the third Test. Karunaratne, 24, impressed the selectors with an unbeaten run-a-ball 60 in his first Test, but his highest score in four innings since has been 30. In Melbourne, his eagerness to take a tight second run began the collapse that saw them last less than 25 overs, but Jayawardene urged patience with the batsman, whom he hoped would justify his selection.



"When you have a run out sometimes you feel bad. The circumstance is that it was Dimuth in his second or third Test match and he probably had a bit more energy flowing in his veins because he's that kind of guy. When you make those kinds of mistakes, the guys will learn quickly. I personally feel that's a good investment for us for the future.

"We made a conscious call that Dimuth was going to be the second opener in this series, and the selectors backed it and said he'd get a good run whatever happens. That's the way to go about it in Test cricket. You need to give younger guys enough opportunities. You need to make them feel comfortable. If you can remember, Marvan [Atapattu] went through five or six ducks in his career and he came back and delivered for Sri Lanka."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sugath on January 2, 2013, 14:07 GMT

    Mahela, that is not what you guys need to do, but to strike the ball and for that on bouncy pitches where 4 fast bowlers are slinging the ball at 130 kph you need to plant both your feet outside the popping crease. That way you counter the ball and do not hang out the bat outside the off stump like trying to dry wet linen but hit hard and not a mere swish. That way even if you get an edge it will fly over the slips for four. Those 4 guys can only come with the ball up to the popping crease on the other side and not at you. THe ball is very small and you have a bat and please use it. Just do not care two pennies about them because they are mortals. Good luck tomorrow and you will win. Also remember to have Suraj to support Herath. Spinners usually hunt in pairs and while Herath tried but he did not have economy at the other end and he could not be incisive

  • warneneverchuck on January 2, 2013, 18:34 GMT

    Will SL win their first test in countries like Aus India before 2050?

  • SLMaster on January 2, 2013, 17:16 GMT

    Hopefully with young group last hurrah for 2013, three days into 2013. No test matches for 2013. Bang & ZIM doesn't count. What is the schedule for 2014. So, that I can setup on my calender and do not wast time in 2013.

  • on January 2, 2013, 14:51 GMT

    come on mahela give a chance to lahiru

  • Prabhash1985 on January 2, 2013, 12:37 GMT

    We can win! Come on Sri Lankans...

  • on January 2, 2013, 12:22 GMT

    lets hope for drastic improvement, but its going to be difficult without Sangakkara who clearly was at easy in Melbourne

  • IanJF on January 2, 2013, 11:25 GMT

    Hoping for a "fresh start" in 2013...

  • on January 2, 2013, 10:55 GMT

    you need to take the responsibility first

  • dunger.bob on January 2, 2013, 10:38 GMT

    No Aussie fan that I know of has any idea what our selectors are up to in this final Test. They appear intent on some sort of shoot out between the fast bowlers. Personally I hope your guys bat strongly & put some real pressure on our strangely ill-balanced side. I have a feeling that at least one of your young guys is going to show our selectors the folly of their ways. .. Your captains tactics sound good. Take it deep into the final days and give Herath the friendliest bowling conditions he is likely to encounter anywhere in this wide brown land. .. Young reflexes can only help when it comes to handling bowlers like Johnson and Starc. .. on the positive side for you they are both capable of leaking runs like a severed artery. .. your young opener (60 @ a run a ball) could profit heavily if he can work out a way. .. anyway, good luck.

  • Sugath on January 2, 2013, 14:07 GMT

    Mahela, that is not what you guys need to do, but to strike the ball and for that on bouncy pitches where 4 fast bowlers are slinging the ball at 130 kph you need to plant both your feet outside the popping crease. That way you counter the ball and do not hang out the bat outside the off stump like trying to dry wet linen but hit hard and not a mere swish. That way even if you get an edge it will fly over the slips for four. Those 4 guys can only come with the ball up to the popping crease on the other side and not at you. THe ball is very small and you have a bat and please use it. Just do not care two pennies about them because they are mortals. Good luck tomorrow and you will win. Also remember to have Suraj to support Herath. Spinners usually hunt in pairs and while Herath tried but he did not have economy at the other end and he could not be incisive

  • warneneverchuck on January 2, 2013, 18:34 GMT

    Will SL win their first test in countries like Aus India before 2050?

  • SLMaster on January 2, 2013, 17:16 GMT

    Hopefully with young group last hurrah for 2013, three days into 2013. No test matches for 2013. Bang & ZIM doesn't count. What is the schedule for 2014. So, that I can setup on my calender and do not wast time in 2013.

  • on January 2, 2013, 14:51 GMT

    come on mahela give a chance to lahiru

  • Prabhash1985 on January 2, 2013, 12:37 GMT

    We can win! Come on Sri Lankans...

  • on January 2, 2013, 12:22 GMT

    lets hope for drastic improvement, but its going to be difficult without Sangakkara who clearly was at easy in Melbourne

  • IanJF on January 2, 2013, 11:25 GMT

    Hoping for a "fresh start" in 2013...

  • on January 2, 2013, 10:55 GMT

    you need to take the responsibility first

  • dunger.bob on January 2, 2013, 10:38 GMT

    No Aussie fan that I know of has any idea what our selectors are up to in this final Test. They appear intent on some sort of shoot out between the fast bowlers. Personally I hope your guys bat strongly & put some real pressure on our strangely ill-balanced side. I have a feeling that at least one of your young guys is going to show our selectors the folly of their ways. .. Your captains tactics sound good. Take it deep into the final days and give Herath the friendliest bowling conditions he is likely to encounter anywhere in this wide brown land. .. Young reflexes can only help when it comes to handling bowlers like Johnson and Starc. .. on the positive side for you they are both capable of leaking runs like a severed artery. .. your young opener (60 @ a run a ball) could profit heavily if he can work out a way. .. anyway, good luck.

  • dunger.bob on January 2, 2013, 10:38 GMT

    No Aussie fan that I know of has any idea what our selectors are up to in this final Test. They appear intent on some sort of shoot out between the fast bowlers. Personally I hope your guys bat strongly & put some real pressure on our strangely ill-balanced side. I have a feeling that at least one of your young guys is going to show our selectors the folly of their ways. .. Your captains tactics sound good. Take it deep into the final days and give Herath the friendliest bowling conditions he is likely to encounter anywhere in this wide brown land. .. Young reflexes can only help when it comes to handling bowlers like Johnson and Starc. .. on the positive side for you they are both capable of leaking runs like a severed artery. .. your young opener (60 @ a run a ball) could profit heavily if he can work out a way. .. anyway, good luck.

  • on January 2, 2013, 10:55 GMT

    you need to take the responsibility first

  • IanJF on January 2, 2013, 11:25 GMT

    Hoping for a "fresh start" in 2013...

  • on January 2, 2013, 12:22 GMT

    lets hope for drastic improvement, but its going to be difficult without Sangakkara who clearly was at easy in Melbourne

  • Prabhash1985 on January 2, 2013, 12:37 GMT

    We can win! Come on Sri Lankans...

  • on January 2, 2013, 14:51 GMT

    come on mahela give a chance to lahiru

  • SLMaster on January 2, 2013, 17:16 GMT

    Hopefully with young group last hurrah for 2013, three days into 2013. No test matches for 2013. Bang & ZIM doesn't count. What is the schedule for 2014. So, that I can setup on my calender and do not wast time in 2013.

  • warneneverchuck on January 2, 2013, 18:34 GMT

    Will SL win their first test in countries like Aus India before 2050?

  • Sugath on January 2, 2013, 14:07 GMT

    Mahela, that is not what you guys need to do, but to strike the ball and for that on bouncy pitches where 4 fast bowlers are slinging the ball at 130 kph you need to plant both your feet outside the popping crease. That way you counter the ball and do not hang out the bat outside the off stump like trying to dry wet linen but hit hard and not a mere swish. That way even if you get an edge it will fly over the slips for four. Those 4 guys can only come with the ball up to the popping crease on the other side and not at you. THe ball is very small and you have a bat and please use it. Just do not care two pennies about them because they are mortals. Good luck tomorrow and you will win. Also remember to have Suraj to support Herath. Spinners usually hunt in pairs and while Herath tried but he did not have economy at the other end and he could not be incisive