July 7, 2012

A gamble that almost backfired

The decision to bowl at the SSC proved risky, and there could have been a result had the Test been played the full five days

We realised in the first session at the SSC that it was going to be a hard Test for us. We took a gamble by not batting first and it nearly backfired. Knowing full well how hard it can be to take wickets here, especially on days two and three, I thought there was something in the pitch on the first morning that we could take advantage of. Taufeeq Umar set them off really well with a fifty at almost a run-a-ball. We knew Pakistan would come back at us strongly as they are a quality side. I thought they batted really well to score 550. We had to weather the storm.

The SSC track used to be quite sporting, giving assistance to the batsmen, seamers and spinners over five days. The curator's job is to prepare a pitch that will last five days. But with the weather conditions, we probably played only three days of cricket on that pitch. In that sense it is a bit difficult to judge whether it was a poor track for Test cricket or not. Had we been playing on a proper fifth-day pitch, there may have been a result. You have to take everything into perspective.

When the opposition piles on runs to that extent, it can be deflating for a fielding captain. To motivate yourself in such a situation, you have to make sure you and your team-mates seize the moment. We had to stay patient, and not think too much about Pakistan's score. It was up to us to bat session by session. In the middle order we had three ducks in the top five, but despite that I was quite happy with our performance in the Test.

As a fielding captain, I like to go with the flow and whether it's Tests, ODIs or T20s, the only way to take control is by picking up wickets. I tend to keep men in catching positions, even in Tests. I have seen a lot of captains do different things. I like to create those pressure situations which would make the batsmen make mistakes. You need to be proactive. Some tactics work, some don't. At the end of the day, you should be positive and back your tactics. If you get new ideas you should see if it would work by having a chat with the bowlers. That's why I experiment a bit more. Sometimes I set defensive fields to plug the boundaries.

Bowlers always come to me for suggestions on the field settings they want. I always give them the first preference. If they run out of ideas, that's when I step in and give them my inputs and see whether they are okay with that. It's always the bowlers' options first and foremost.

Bowlers always come to me for suggestions on the field settings they want. I always give them the first preference. If they run out of ideas, that's when I step in and give them my inputs and see whether they are okay with that. It's always the bowlers' options first and foremost. You work with the bowler in question, find out his game-plan and also analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the batsman. You maneuver your fielders accordingly. It also creates doubts in the batsman's mind. In situations where the batsmen are piling runs, attacking fields can create that pressure.

Regarding our seamers' performance, Nuwan Kulasekara tried his best on a pitch that didn't offer much. But he was there and thereabouts and still asked questions. Nuwan Pradeep couldn't find his consistency. There's no point having pace if you cannot create pressure by bowling consistently in that corridor, where it would pose questions for the batsman. But if you spray it around and give width it's always going to be tough to create that pressure. That is where he lacks; he hasn't played much of first-class or senior cricket.

Pakistan's Junaid Khan, on the other hand, created some nice angles (from round the wicket) and it put us in a bit of trouble. But I felt our batsmen put a lot of pressure on themselves. I think the mindset was more on the negative side on the fourth evening, trying to see off those 10-15 overs. Junaid bowled really well to create that pressure.

The Pallekele Test is crucial for us to seal our first Test series win in three years. We need to go with the intention of winning the Test. I have said before that going in with a negative mindset and playing for a draw will never work. Pakistan are a quality outfit, and if we don't play to win, then we cannot take up the challenge posed by them. I will tell my guys to play hard cricket and be positive. It will definitely be a sporting pitch and livelier than the one at SSC, but a lot will depend on the weather.

Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene is the country's leading Test run-scorer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 8, 2012, 4:01 GMT

    i agree with jonathenjosheps up to an extent but even in 1993 when jayasuriya was batting at no7 he had a much better temperment and did score big double hundreds for sl B team so it was like he was used to... but i think let sanga open with dilly and chandimal bat at no3 so it becomes rock solid>>> 1 sanga 2.dilshan 3.chandimal 4.mahela 5.thilan 6. mathews 7. prasanna 8.kule 9. randiv 10.dilhara( no body else left in the squad) 11. rangana

    as time passes away the new sri lankan team will be as follows>>> 1 dimuth karunarathne 2. ashan priyanjan 3. chandimal 4. bhanuka 5. angelo perere 6. mathews 7.sachitra serasinghe 8.nuwan kulasekara 9.chaminda vithanapathirana 10.chathura peiris 11.chanka welagedara/ new comer

  • Dummy4 on July 8, 2012, 1:51 GMT

    pradeep will be very good bowler. but he should be given more and more chases. he will be another malinga.but we have to wait till the moment.in 2'3 years he will show what he can do

  • Johnathon on July 7, 2012, 22:14 GMT

    Hopefully Jayawardene can read this. Sri Lanka need only two changes for a perfect team. Its simple, drop Paranavitana and Nuwan Pradeep who have both done nothing. Bring in Chandimal and Thissara Perera. Does that mean Chandimal will open? No. A daring, yet brilliant idea is to promote Perera to the top of the order. This man can bat (averages 32 in first class cricket) and if he gets going, he can give Sri Lanka an amazing start. His bowling will also improve and on the long run it will be a very beneficial move for Sri Lanka on the LONG RUN. If you ever get better openers, Thissara can go back down the order. I remember one of the best captains of all time promote a spinner as an opener which ended up revolutionizing the game (jayasuriya). Why not do the same with Perera?

  • Dummy4 on July 7, 2012, 12:04 GMT

    Beautiful article,well written,well spoken.Its an article every player can learn something from.

  • Dummy4 on July 7, 2012, 10:14 GMT

    ssc is not an ideal place to play test cricket. p sara is far better than ssc. in p sara batting 2nd team will dominate the game

  • Thimukvi on July 7, 2012, 7:43 GMT

    Yes, It almost backfired. it could be seen even before the 1st session ends on day one. but i think what Mahela thought was right. if we see the history of SSC that there was something for the quicks on day 1. even when AUS came here they were loosing wickets in quick time on day one, it happened to SA on day one and they saw mahela & sanga go on with a partneship of 624 on the same pitch after the day 1. (but last time india toured it was SL who bat first to score 600+) i think this time the wicket was similar to what SL played IND last time. anyhow, one would argue that had it not rained PAK would have won, but let me say that had it not rained SL will be batting their 1st innings on day 2 & 3 where batsmen get the best of SSC pitch. but as mahela told, putting PAK to bat was a tactic you use that might work at times and fail just like in this match at times. Hope SL take correct decisions in Pallekale. PAK well played in this match and thanks for lovely TEST CRICKET.

  • Dummy4 on July 7, 2012, 6:37 GMT

    So Mahela admits that he made a mistake and has learnt a valuable lesson. Pakistan could've levelled the series if rain didn't stop play. Tell you what, if you win the toss, don't send Australia into bat. A lot of teams have done that and watched their bowlers get carted to all corners of the ground. If it is good for batting, bat first and put a big total on the board. Not worth the risk trailing behind a huge score.

  • Dummy4 on July 7, 2012, 6:07 GMT

    This Sri Lankan team is good. There should be no doubts about that. And under Mahela's captaincy, they are not as likely to implode as they used to under Dilshan. I think they will take the series 2-0.

  • No featured comments at the moment.