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 have now been closed for this article

  • Stewart on February 7, 2014, 12:56 GMT

    Will Kulasekara be fit for the England tour? He may not be the long term asnwer for Sri Lanka but he's perfect for English spring conditions. I reckon he'd have a great time in the county championship if he gave it a go.

  • Johann on February 7, 2014, 10:37 GMT

    Poor SL do not have a good fast bowler or spinner at least in the sub-continent! SL cricket is still riding on old lions. No hope in others!

  • Lalindra on February 7, 2014, 6:54 GMT

    It's high time Sri Lanka Play the true Brand of Cricket their are known for and Make a match out of this game at least...! No point in unnecessary conservative tactics from Mathews. You should go about your business in a Sri Lankan point of view on making sure they win this match with every possible way that is available and options that is available to them and all the while playing the game like true sportsman, this game should be keenly contested till the last day last ball.

  • Al on February 7, 2014, 4:47 GMT

    Or maybe its Bangladesh who have discovered their true potential and played accordingly...

  • Dummy4 on February 6, 2014, 20:27 GMT

    Ajantha Mendis' future 'is a quandary for selectors'? Actually it hasn't looked better for years. While he doesn't find favour with a particular cricket writer who is skilled at picking holes, he is changing. His physique is stronger, less injury-prone, his batting has significantly improved and he may have remedied some weaknesses in his bowling. Certainly he was the best wicket-taking option in this match so far. Despite his lack of selectorial support his record is very good and his list of Test victims includes the best batsmen in the world. He'll only get the chance to bowl on all wickets if he's selected and persevered with. He is a wicket-taker and a worthy replacement for Herath.

  • Dummy4 on February 6, 2014, 20:16 GMT

    Give Mendis a few more games

  • shuhail on February 6, 2014, 19:43 GMT

    Any team missing their two best bowlers will find it hard.. imagine southafrica missing steyn and morkel wat will be their situation.. pardeep hd a good match in dubai and never played after that so he must be rusty.. juz one bad game doesnt mean he is bad.. pradeep will bounce back in england.. lakmal pradeep and eranga will make us really proud this time in england.. mark my words we gonna win our first test series in england this time around.. we gonna roar..

  • Dummy4 on February 6, 2014, 19:25 GMT

    Well...yeah. Agreed with Andrew to a certain extent. But have to say there are few attacks going around who can loose their two best bowlers for a test match and say that they are still as potent as they are with them. That is why their called your best bowlers. In this case one of the two best spinners going around. But fielding is inexcusable. I think fielding has let us down. I think it should be taken seriously. We have a fairly young side out there. They have to field better than this. No excuses. Going back to bowling, I think it is high time to trial Tharindu Kaushal, Sachithra and Akila. I really thought Akila had that old weapon most young spinners doesn't have. Flight and spin. I still don't know why he is not tested yet. Quicks, well Nuwan seems a good bowler. but he should be given a permanent place in the side. These 3 quicks have to work together and identify their place in the attack. Still this is a work in progress.

  • Jerry on February 6, 2014, 19:15 GMT

    Unfortunately for SL , kulasekaera was not in the squad. Pradeep is rather expensive . We also had injuries to Herath . In a pitch like this Herath & mendis together would have been ideal. But we have to find bowlers that will create pressure as well . Our fielding was very lacklustre as well . Only way to try to force a win , is to get quick wickets , try to get a 150 lead and score quickly and add another 250 runs by end of day 4 . Set a target of about 400 on the 5th day for BD and hope the wicket assists spinners on the last day. however with Matthews he may play it safe and try to salvage and be happy with a draw. We need aggressive captains like Clarke in tests to go for a win , rather than settling for a draw. Good luck lions and well played BD . hoping we can hold all the catches in BD 2nd innings

  • Dummy4 on February 6, 2014, 18:47 GMT

    Andrew every team has limitations in their attack be it a good spinner or a pacer. I am honestly being impressed by the SL pacers and they are improving under Vaas' guidance. You must also remember that SL have produced great bowlers : Murali and Chaminda Vaas

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