Bangladesh v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Chittagong, 3rd day February 6, 2014

Sri Lanka discover their limitations

As they spurned the opportunity to grab a lead in excess of 200 on the third day in Chittagong, Sri Lanka would have discovered some of their limitations in fielding and the lack of a bowling bench strength

Losses, it is often said, are more instructive than victories, and on a day on which Sri Lanka gave up more ground than they have become accustomed to conceding in this series, the team may have discovered some of their limitations.

Swept up in the delight over Suranga Lakmal and Shaminda Eranga's advances and endurance in January, it has been easy to overlook shortcomings elsewhere in the bowling stocks. Now, having lost their best quick and slow bowler to injury, Sri Lanka have found the troops beyond the frontline are raw, still prone to the indiscipline the coaches had endeavoured to eliminate.

Nuwan Pradeep had been the catalyst in Pakistan's first-innings collapse in Dubai, and their subsequent loss. He was somewhere near his finest in Dubai, seaming the ball in either direction, at a slippery pace envenomed by his accuracy and persistence in length. Chittagong, perhaps, found him at his worst.

On day two he delivered eight overs and traveled at 8.38. The pitch was unhelpful, no doubt, but Sri Lanka will encounter plenty such surfaces in years to come, not least in Galle. Eranga and Lakmal had made consistency in line and length the blueprint of their success in the UAE but, fresh off the bench, Pradeep could not quite fall in line.

The wayward morning spell that yielded 50 from five overs, lent momentum to Bangladesh's resistance. Pradeep's worst transgression was an over of short-wide deliveries that surrendered 20. Thrice he overstepped, out of 13 no-balls in the innings an unmissable symptom of poor rhythm. Fast bowlers are entitled to their poor days, perhaps more than any other cricketer in the team, but as Sri Lanka do not yet have quicks that will blow oppositions away, collective pressure is vital to their success. Lakmal was miserly in patches on day two, but as long as batsmen could score at the other end, his menace was vastly diminished.

That is not to say Pradeep should aim to emulate Eranga and Lakmal in everything. The glory of the best attacks - even the decent ones Sri Lanka have produced - has been their variety. South Africa have Dale Steyn's intensity, Morne Morkel's bounce and Vernon Philander's metronomic seam. Australia have a pit bull in Mitchell Johnson and a border collie in Peter Siddle. Both outfits have the diversity to make a range of demands from the opposition.

Already carrying strikingly similar right-arm quicks in Eranga and Lakmal, Pradeep's hit-the-deck pace shapes as a dose of flavour. But although it may be unfair - even unrealistic - to expect a bowler of his ilk to become the patron saint of line and length, certain standards of economy may be aspired to. Sri Lanka will almost certainly need a third seamer at Headingley and Lord's this year, and they will hope Pradeep does not have another crisis of confidence there.

Beyond Pradeep, it is also as yet unclear who else can form a battery that will provide adequate cover, when injuries inevitably occur. Vishwa Fernando, a lean left-armer who generates considerable pace with his jarring action, has been identified as a strong prospect by the selectors and has been on two tours as the work-experience kid. His first-class average of 37.26 may be a better reflection of Sri Lanka's bland domestic surfaces than his own prowess, but the imminent England Lions tour, in which Fernando is expected to play, will provide a clearer indication of his ability.

Limitations in the field had been apparent during the tour of the UAE, when the slips were less than secure. In the first innings in Chittagong, Sri Lanka grassed three sitters and two sharp chances, spurning the opportunity to establish a lead in excess of 200. Ajantha Mendis, off whose bowling two of those chances were spilt, suggested fatigue may have weakened the side in the field, but if the Sri Lanka hordes queuing for the IPL auction have their way, most of the team will not arrive in the United Kingdom well rested, having not had much more than a week's break in one stretch, since December.

Mendis was the most successful among Sri Lanka's bowlers, and his future is a quandary for the selectors. There is little question he remains a threat in the shorter formats, but in Tests, there have been only so many teams who have not yet defused him, and so many surfaces that have proved conducive to his tricks.

Bangladesh weakened the visitors' grip on a 2-0 result on day three, but with more high-profile contests on the horizon, perhaps Sri Lanka can be grateful to the batsmen that uncovered the cracks in their game.

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

Comments