ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

Sri Lanka's Test and ODI contrast

Outside the subcontinent Sri Lanka have struggled as a Test side, but their ODI results in the last seven years are the best among the subcontinent teams

S Rajesh

January 25, 2013

Comments: 40 | Text size: A | A

Mahela Jayawardene goes for the pull, Sri Lanka v New Zealand, 5th ODI, Hambantota, November 12, 2012
Mahela Jayawardene has a poor record in Tests outside the subcontinent in the last seven years, but in ODIs he has been pretty impressive © Associated Press

In the Test matches that they played in Australia, Sri Lanka were hopelessly outclassed: their batting was limp and inconsistent, and the bowling was consistently toothless (except for Rangana Herath). The result was a 3-0 whitewash, which meant their overall Test record in Australia was 11 defeats in 13 Tests, with two draws. Then came the ODIs, which gave Sri Lanka an opportunity to take on the hosts in a format they were far more proficient at. The result was a compelling, hard-fought series, in which the visitors gave as good as they got. Convincing wins in the second and third games put them 2-1 up in the series, a lead which they ultimately surrendered after the fourth game was controversially abandoned and the fifth went Australia's way by 32 runs.

The 2-2 drawn series, though, once again showed what a difference a change in format makes. (Simultaneously, in other parts of the cricketing world, New Zealand recovered from a shellacking in the Tests against South Africa to shock them in the ODIs, while India turned the tables on England after being outplayed in the Tests.)

Sri Lanka's results, though, conform to a pattern they've established when playing international cricket outside the subcontinent. Over the last few years, they've been extremely competitive in the 50-over format outside the subcontinent, even as they've continued to perform below par in Tests. As the table below shows, in the Test series in Australia, the bowlers - especially the pace attack - struggled to pick up wickets; the difference between the runs per wicket scored and conceded in the Tests was more than 21, but in the ODIs it came down to barely two runs, which illustrates just how much more competitive Sri Lanka were in the ODIs (though Australia's changed batting line-up in the ODI series also made it easier for the Sri Lankan bowlers).

Sri Lanka's tour of Australia, 2012-13
  W/ L Bat ave Run rate Bowl ave Econ rate
Tests 0/ 3 24.94 3.05 46.34 3.59
ODIs 2/ 2 24.07 4.43 26.10 4.55

Going further back, to the beginning of 2006, the results show Sri Lanka have won almost as many matches as they've lost in one-day internationals in Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa: in 64 games they've won 28 and lost 32. In Tests, though, they've lost ten out of 16, and won only three. They've managed to draw a series each in England and New Zealand, and win a Test in South Africa, but they've lost each of their five Tests in Australia during this period.

As on the tour to Australia, the significant improvement in ODIs over the Tests is in their bowling averages, which drops from 43.86 to 33.17. The batting averages go up too in the ODIs, which makes them a far more competitive team in this format.

Sri Lanka in Tests and ODIs in Aus, Eng, SA, NZ since Jan 2006
Format Matches W/L Bat ave Run rate Bowl ave Econ rate
Tests 16 3/ 10 27.41 3.16 43.86 3.55
ODIs 64 28/ 32 31.14 5.16 33.17 5.25

Comparing the Test and ODI results of Sri Lanka with the two other big teams in the subcontinent - India and Pakistan - show quite clearly Sri Lanka's pre-eminence in the shorter format. While their win-loss in Tests is the worst among the three sides, in ODIs they are the best.

In Tests, both India and Pakistan have a 5-13 win-loss record, compared to Sri Lanka's 3-10. India were 5-5 before their recent free fall, which has resulted in eight successive losses, while Pakistan have been patchy as well, losing 3-0 to both Australia and England during this period. Sri Lanka's ratio is poorer than both those teams, though, and their bowling average of 43.86 runs per wicket is the worst among the three teams.

In ODIs, though, their win-loss ratio of 0.87 is the best among these three sides. (All these stats are matches played against the top sides only, excluding games against Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, and other non-Test-playing sides.) Sri Lanka have played more matches than the other two - and more than twice as many as Pakistan - and they've been competitive in most of them, once even blanking England 5-0 in 2006. Their bowling average, which was the worst among the three teams in Tests, is the best in ODIs.

Subcontinent teams in Tests in Aus, Eng, NZ, SA since Jan 2006
Team Matches W/ L Ratio Bat ave Bowl ave
India 24 5/ 13 0.38 30.72 40.79
Pakistan 21 5/ 13 0.38 26.53 33.15
Sri Lanka 16 3/ 10 0.30 27.41 43.86
Subcontinent teams in ODIs in Aus, Eng, NZ, SA since Jan 2006 (v top teams only*)
Team Matches W/ L Ratio Bat ave Run rate Bowl ave Econ rate
Sri Lanka 64 28/ 32 0.87 31.14 5.16 33.17 5.25
India 47 17/ 23 0.73 29.64 5.19 34.47 5.45
Pakistan 30 10/ 17 0.58 26.28 4.84 33.60 5.31
* Excludes matches against Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, and other non-Test-playing sides

Unlike in Tests during this period, where most of Sri Lanka's batsmen have underperformed outside the subcontinent, in ODIs several of them have excelled. Kumar Sangakkara averages more than 42 in these countries during this period, against his overall ODI average of 38.56, while Dinesh Chandimal averages more than 50 in 22 innings, but the stats which best illustrates Sri Lanka's contrasting fortunes in these two formats belong to Mahela Jayawardene. In Tests in these countries during this period, Jayawardene averages 26.15 in 32 innings, with only five scores of more than 50. That's almost half his career average of 49.56. In ODIs, though, Jayawardene has excelled in these conditions, averaging 37.30 in 59 innings, which is four runs more than his career ODI average of 33.20.

Current Sri Lankan batsmen in ODIs in Aus, Eng, NS, SA since Jan 2006
Batsman Innings Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Kumar Sangakkara 57 2294 42.48 78.83 3/ 17
Mahela Jayawardene 59 1977 37.30 86.82 3/ 15
Tillakaratne Dilshan 58 1619 31.13 82.01 3/ 7
Upul Tharanga 32 1099 35.45 74.30 3/ 7
Dinesh Chandimal 22 873 51.35 77.66 1/ 8
Angelo Mathews 26 691 36.36 88.81 0/ 5

However, the biggest difference in averages has been in bowling, and more specifically in the averages of the fast bowlers. In Tests they've conceded more than 57 runs per wicket, but in ODIs it has dropped to a respectable 34.45. The spinners have been slightly more economical than the fast bowlers in ODIs, but they haven't been as effective in taking wickets. The contrast in averages between Tests and ODIs was even more stark for Sri Lanka's seamers on this tour to Australia: in Tests they averaged 59.47 runs per wicket; in ODIs it dropped to 24.06, with Nuwan Kulasekara and Lasith Malinga, their leading wicket-takers, both averaging less than 20.

Sri Lankan bowlers, in Tests and ODIs in Aus, Eng, NZ and SA since Jan 2006
  Wickets Average Econ rate Strike rate
Tests-pace 94 57.55 3.78 91.1
ODIs-pace 277 34.45 5.26 39.3
Tests-spin 84 31.08 2.92 63.6
ODIs-spin 121 41.86 4.96 50.6

Among the Sri Lankan bowlers, Malinga leads the wicket-takers' list in these countries with 82 in 49 games, at an average of slightly less than 28. Kulasekara took plenty of wickets in Australia, but he hasn't been as successful in other series in these countries, averaging more than 41 runs per wicket. Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan, the two oldtimers, are next in the wicket-takers' list with averages in the mid-30s, and those averages have all helped make Sri Lanka a far more competitive side in ODIs outside the subcontinent.

Sri Lankan bowlers who've taken most wickets in ODIs in Aus, Eng, NZ, SA, since Jan 2006
Bowler Matches Wickets Average Econ rate Strike rate
Lasith Malinga 49 82 27.98 5.36 31.3
Nuwan Kulasekara 42 42 41.47 4.95 50.2
Muttiah Muralitharan 33 39 35.76 4.72 45.4
Chaminda Vaas 30 35 33.91 4.57 44.4
Thisara Perera 17 23 27.69 6.14 27.0
Farveez Maharoof 21 21 36.42 5.12 42.6

All ODI stats exclude matches against Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, and other non-Test-playing sides.

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter

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Comments: 40 
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Posted by Nipuna on (January 27, 2013, 10:17 GMT)

Guys why do not you speak the truth SL needs good pace man to do the job No one bowling at 140+ plus regularly No tall fast bowlers, No one bends back to get something from the deck No quality 2nd spinner to help rangana. But mind you that not only bowlers Bats man also didn't do their job. Specially in Australia They should have done better.

Posted by Prashan on (January 27, 2013, 3:37 GMT)

@Rakesh_Sharma, well I appreciate your comments indeed. Anyway India would have managed pace bowling very well under Tendulkar and Dravid who excelled on green tops even if India played tests in Hobart and Darwin. Now of course they too will struggle for sometime on green tops sans Dravid and Tendulkar. Interesting how Pakistani batters will tackle the SA pace in this tour but they have the bowlers to jolt the SA batters which SL and India lack. Well regarding the traditional venues in Australia I cant give that excuse because we have played our worse test cricket both home and away against Aussies. I agree our performance against England in England has been 50-50 like due to touring in May when colder than in June or July. We get to tour England oly in May or June due to the fact that we host cricket teams normally in July and August each year. Actually we can get prepared for cold English weather if we practice in our coldest city of Nuwaraeliya, which you would nt have not heard of.

Posted by Prashan on (January 27, 2013, 2:06 GMT)

@RuwanFer, yes the test series against SA which was scheduled for August 2013 has been postponed till June 2015 (see this http://www.espncricinfo.com/southafrica/content/story/589184.html) to avoid clashing with the useless SLPL. Surely why the hell could nt SLC play the tests in tandem with the SLPL like how ECB has the Friends provident T20 during the test season along with Cricket Australia having BBL during the time tests are played. SLC is useless! We have no meaningful test cricket till December next year when we meet Pakistan in UAE perhaps.

Yeah exactly I agree. We have 3 day cricket and that will be starting shortly. How can we do well in tests without 4 day domestic games. Good point indeed. Hard to expect to have good future in test cricket just by looking at the galore of ODIs we will be playing from June till November this year. At least we should have sent our youngsters like Angelo Perera, K'ratne, Kushal P, Thiri etc to play the 2 tests in the West Indies!

Posted by Rakesh on (January 27, 2013, 1:53 GMT)

@Gaya Maddumarala,I would say Test matches are the ultimate which infact merits any discussion. Having said that I would also agree with @PrasadGunawardane that SL players are with more flair than India and even Pakistan. WE need to keep in mind that SL started playing Test only from 1982 unlike India and Pakistan. A;so , it is to be worth noted that most of the tours of SL to England ,NZ since last few years have been during difficult ( swinging -early cold summer) time. I think one resaon for slightly bad performance in Australia is due to frequent use of non traditional venues for SL Tests for each of their tours.It is only in 2012 they used more traditional venues. I bet Indian performance in Hobart and Port Darwin in swinging uneven and unsettled pitches would be worse.However it is worth appreciating that cricket team of island of just 22 million offers fight just like a team representing an India of 1200 m.Analysis barely shows that SL is worse than India worth highlighting.

Posted by Kumara on (January 26, 2013, 19:43 GMT)

It's also interesting to see Mahela's stats only as a top order (1, 2 and 3) batsman.. should be better because all his ODI hundreds in England came as an opener or no 3 batsman.

Posted by Kumara on (January 26, 2013, 19:37 GMT)

@Sinhaya It's an interesting stat when u say "But how can we who are the last team to beat SA in a test match on the 29th Dec 2011 (they have not lost after that) and also the last team to beat SA in a test series when they toured which was in August 2006." If I add something to it "We are the only country that canceled a home test series against SA during this period when they are the world's number 1 test team". How about that mate? It's only the SL cricket board can do such heroics!

On the topic; correct me if I'm wrong, when I last checked SL is the only test nation who doesn't play consistent 4-day cricket at 1st class level (we had stop-start tournaments for short periods). How u can expect a bunch of guys who play 1000 ODIs per year with few noobs selected from 3-day cricket to do well in test?

Posted by Dummy4 on (January 26, 2013, 17:47 GMT)

Cheap comments about road pitch,jealous &ignorantly saying india never wins (check stats, they did win!, and many famous ones abroad too!) Likewise after the south African odi loss, id stick out my neck and say Sri lanka is the most consistent odi side in the world not just now,but 4m a long time now.Its just a pity they didn't win cups, else they would have been 3 times wc champs,t20 champs, cb series champs etc.Also luv mahela forever!But Worst is the jealousy against india.One bad year and look at the green eyed ppl jumping to say india are worse than the worst lol! Another preposterous comment is about how a country with a billion cant produce 10 players!I mean how ignorant can some ppl be!Do you think population in a country has got to do something with great teams!!!?Jeez,this is getting worse day by day!And Pakistanis please, don't insult Pakistan cricket team by bragging too much aftr a couple of series wins. Trust me itl come back to bite you in future!,let them rise in peace!

Posted by Krishna on (January 26, 2013, 16:23 GMT)

In short i can say Test cricket is on life support when it comes to subcontinental teams.

Posted by Prashan on (January 26, 2013, 14:03 GMT)

@PrasadGunawardane, (continued) Chandimal will be our best fast track weapon. Just look at his test average in the tests in SA and Australia only and the ODI batting average in the games played in Aust, Eng and SA where it is over 50 but he has been poor in Asia. KP too could be like Chandimal who likes fast tracks.

Posted by Prashan on (January 26, 2013, 13:35 GMT)

@PrasadGunawardane, well I disagree. ODI wickets have been 50-50. The Gabba pitch where we got Aussies all out for 74 was a bowling paradise. The Hobart pitch was a slow one where batting and bowling was tough. Most ODI pitches in Australia help you defend 250 plus scores 90% of the time.

I disagree that Durban is a flat track. It is a spinning track and that was why Herath helped us win the test match there. Lords has been sporty and that is why it has produced results in tests unlike useless SSC.

Yes Mahela is a flat track bully but also one of the best players of spin bowling. His record in Galle simply proves it. Anyway, we have Chandimal, Thirimanne, Karunaratne, Kushal Perera ready to replace them and hopefully in the near future we can get Angelo Perera and Bhanuka Rajapakse in as well, but bowling is the worry. Hope Roshan Jayatissa is good for tests. Just search him on google and look at his espncricinfo profile. (continued)

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.

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