August 6, 2008

No cause for panic

Sri Lanka were less than optimal at Galle, failing to build partnerships in particular, but all's not lost yet

Jayawardene has been calm as a captain in the face of adversity, and he has been batting well too, which stands Sri Lanka in good stead © AFP

Looking back at the Galle Test, I must say that one of the turning points was when Malinda Warnapura and I were dismissed in relatively quick succession in our first innings. The team needed one of us to go on and get a hundred. Not a particularly big hundred, but one that would have extended the partnership and given Sri Lanka a large total. That would have made it easier for the other guys to bat around. Mahela Jayawardene had to bat with the tail to get 80, and he batted brilliantly, but it would have helped him and the rest to have one of the top three go on to get something bigger. Overall, in our first innings we had a good chance of going on a ways past 300, but we didn't take that opportunity. That's one area where we stuttered.

There seem to have been a few eyebrows raised over how Jayawardene batted with Nuwan Kulasekara, keeping strike and turning down opportunities to score. What Jayawardene was trying to do was shield Nuwan until he was set, and then there would have been more opportunities to score; they could have then taken singles. Unfortunately Jayawardene got out. Had that partnership progressed, there would have been opportunities to rotate singles, especially with Kulasekara set. It was a creditable performance by Kulasekara and a fantastic one by Jayawardene to get us to within 37 runs of India's score.

The crucial part of our second-innings chase of 308 was failing to get a start. We lost three early wickets and there on it was an uphill task. After Jayawardene got out, Thilan Samaraweera and Tillakaratne Dilshan shifted the momentum around a bit until Dilshan got out. That was a blow. It would have been very interesting to see the balance of the match shifting to and fro if he hadn't.

The burst of wickets by Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan was probably the turning point in the second innings. It was not that we were trying to score against the opening bowlers before the two experienced spinners came on. We play the bowling on merit. We knew the first four to six overs were going to be difficult and they proved exactly that.

Ishant bowled very well. The track did offer something for the fast bowlers if they hit the deck hard and hit the seam and bowled in the right channels. At the SSC there was nothing in it for Ishant to exploit other than with the new ball, but in Galle he settled down into a rhythm brilliantly - especially in that channel to right-handers. He kept asking questions and when you do that on a consistent basis, you get results.

People underestimate pace bowlers on flat wickets, and that helps them get breakthroughs with the new ball. That can then set up the game for the spinners. Over the years Vaas has managed to do that for us day in and day out

Pace is always going to be crucial, especially on flat tracks. People underestimate pace bowlers on such wickets, and that helps them get breakthroughs with the new ball. That can then set up the game for the spinners. Over the years Chaminda Vaas has managed to do that for us day in and day out, but it didn't happen in Galle. He did come back really well in his second and third spells. Kulasekara, on the other hand, bowled brilliantly in the first Test. He played a fantastic role up top, and in the first innings in Galle he started really well too, but Virender Sehwag was a big factor. That happens. As bowlers and as a side we must accept that it won't always go our way. That's why we have a varied bowling attack to take up different responsibilities.

Credit to Jayawardene for handling himself so well in the face of Sehwag's attack. Nothing much was going our way, but he was calm and collected - you need to think logically and rationally, which is what he did. That's how he's always been in his approach to his cricket. It's a great asset to have in tough situations and we as a team are very lucky to have it.

Looking to the final Test, I don't think the P Saravanamuttu Stadium is going to be different from any other venue. It will be a good track, great to bat on, with a lot of turn on days four and five. It offers bowlers something if you really bend your back.

It is way too early so say what changes, if any, we will make in the final Test. There is no reason to panic and all we have to do is raise our performance levels and have confidence in each other. We've done so well over the years and we know each other's abilities. That trust works well going into a game.