Sri Lanka in New Zealand 2015-16 December 16, 2015

Hamilton pitch 'understandably doctored' - Jayaratne


Two days out from the second Test, the Seddon Park surface wore a verdant look © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

In Dunedin, Sri Lanka were exposed to howling winds cold enough to bring with them a hailstorm on the fourth evening. Players made mention of the temperature all week, and as often happens with Sri Lanka, cold hands led to a lukewarm fielding performance - no fewer than four chances were missed in the second innings.

They have arrived in the North Island's warmer climes, but oh dear, something even more uncomfortable may await them. The pitch is not the dry deck they expected. Two days out, it is more than green - it's verdant. There is so much grass on the surface, that for now, it's virtually indistinguishable from the rest of the square.

Having studied past scorecards, Sri Lanka had hoped Hamilton would be the most spin-friendly Test venue of the four they have encountered in New Zealand, in the past year. Interim head coach Jerome Jayaratne has all but abandoned those expectations.

"My intelligence tells me that it has been known to take spin as the game goes on," Jayaratne said. "But I am assuming here that the wicket has been doctored to suit the New Zealanders, which is understandable. There is more than 18 millimetres of grass on the wicket."

The Seddon Park track has had a reputation for taking spin, particularly while Daniel Vettori plied his trade there for Northern Districts. It has also been kind to visiting spinners in the recent past. West Indies offspinner Sunil Narine took 6 for 91 in an innings, in the most recent Test there. Pakistan's Abdur Rehman had also prospered in 2011, when he took 3 for 51 and 3 for 24.

Partly because of those results, Sri Lanka had brought three specialist spinners on tour. Offspinner Dilruwan Perera and uncapped legbreak bowler Jeffrey Vandersay have traveled with the squad, but the visitors may not have a chance to use those bowlers in the series.

"I think this pitch will have a lot more bounce and carry than the one in Dunedin," Jayaratne said. "They're looking for a lot of moisture and sideways movement. I think it will be different from the Hamilton wickets before. As the game goes on, it might slow down, but for now there's a lot of grass on the track."

The appearance of the surface also brings Sri Lanka's batting quandary into sharp focus. They had batted very conservatively in Dunedin, batting out 50.4 overs more than New Zealand, though they were still short by 122 runs. Captain Angelo Mathews had blamed that loss partly on his batsmen's reticence, but with more fraught batting conditions now expected in Hamilton, Sri Lanka may mull the merits of conservatism again.

"The batting approach is a debatable one, and we've been discussing this during as well as after the game," Jayaratne said. "In the recent past we have not gone past 75 overs, and we managed to bat 117 and 95 overs in that first Test. They need to occupy the crease out there as well - but at the same time you need to get runs. Maybe you would have been slightly negative. We couldn't raise our run rate during the game. But it's a very experienced bowling attack and you hardly get opportunities. Dinesh Chandimal and Dimuth Karunaratne got runs by occupying the wicket."

Jayaratne expressed faith in the "talent and skill" of his top order, however. He suggested it was the development of Test-match temperament that marked Sri Lanka's route to improvement.

"We played a very good side in Dunedin and they hardly give you any loose balls. They're an experienced team, and I think our guys learned a lot playing tight bowling. You can't just fend one bowler away and try to capitalise on the other bowler, because the other guy comes fresh as well. It's very hard work. Test cricket is a test of patience and skill. I think we have the skill, it's just the patience and picking the correct ball - that's what they have to make their mind up about.

"Our guys have talent and the skill, but the adaptation is the most important thing. That comes through experience. You saw guys getting into 30s and 40s, but the conversions weren't coming. We were not quite tight enough."

Jayaratne also hoped for better control from Sri Lanka's seamers, whom both he and Mathews believed had been too loose when given first use of the pitch in Dunedin.

"I think we need to improve our lines a little bit more. If our lines were tighter we could have kept them under control in Dunedin. I think we'll bowl a little bit straighter to them and make them play, more often than not."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Cricinfouser on December 20, 2015, 4:49 GMT

    Very immature performance from the SL team in noth matches. No commitment, poor captaincy, ridiculous bowling changes.....the list goes on. Why the hell is Mathews opening the bowling ? This coach is a joke !

  • Dave on December 19, 2015, 18:21 GMT

    @stevies - do you really think Lara could not play the moving ball?! Lol! Have tou forgotten how he destroyed the worlds best bowling attack - your neighbours, over and over again. So what if he had a few low scores in NZ, it doesnt take away from his greatness. He was a genius.

  • Vinod on December 18, 2015, 3:54 GMT

    Whilst on pitches, i thought the wickets for the recent India -SL series played in SL were outstanding, had something for all players and were a real template for future pitches on SC, winning on such pitches gives more satisfaction, well done to SL groundsmen and pitch curators -wish india could do the same instead of the usual raging turners from ball one...cricinfo plz publish

  • Ross on December 18, 2015, 2:04 GMT

    Why would you say that a pitch is doctored just by looking at a pitch a few times. It's early summer in New Zealand, a country which is known for it's ability to grow grass especially in the Waikato region which Hamilton is in...

  • Vinod on December 18, 2015, 0:49 GMT

    I think the word 'doctored' is blown out of proportion and is used too loosely everytime. Can those in the know explain exactly 'what is doctoring'? would it be considered 'doctored' if every blade of grass was shaved off on a pitch in NZ, Eng, Aus, SAF and it started turning from the 6th over on day one? or if enough grass was left on a wicket in india/SL/PAK/SC so that you cant tell it apart from the rest of the outfield and it bounces more on day 5 than it would on day 1 at WACA-perth? why cant we accept that the climatic conditions and soil content is unique to all contries and hecne you get the pitches typical to each country. if anything-the term doctored should apply to 'selected watering' or 'selected areas of grass growth' which i wish no country do this.moving on, am looking fwd to the SL star of the future - Chameera to bowl on this fast pitch....all the best from an indian fan

  • MADAN MOHAN on December 17, 2015, 20:49 GMT

    This has become a order of day - recent SA and India series . Ultimately they will kill the game .

  • Dudley on December 17, 2015, 17:56 GMT

    Cricket could be played on any pitch, the condition of which goes for both sides of the game. Silly complaints that the pitch has been 'doctored' to suit one team is laughable. Great cricketers have excelled in sandy pitches in Chennai as well as grassy ones in Australia. Why blame the pitch and the weather when you cannot play the game. If you lose a game give credit to the opposition rather than looking for ridiculous excuses. Dudley Gunasena, Eastwood, NSW, Australia.

  • Sunny on December 17, 2015, 17:17 GMT

    @ MOHSIN9975 @MYSAY SL actually making a green seamer on a famously flat SSC pitch in the third test against India is conveniently ignored? why? such pitches do not aid spinners like many are claiming here.

  • Garry on December 17, 2015, 17:10 GMT

    Larathegreatest actually it is 36, more that what I thought it would be but it is inflated by playing a big innings against a bowling lineup of Murphy Sua and Mathew Hart LMAO, they wouldn't even make the NZ A side today. 14 innings here is plenty of innings to see if someone can make it, he obviously couldn't play the moving ball or was to soft to handle the cold, you pick.

  • Garry on December 17, 2015, 17:05 GMT

    Larathegreatest in New Zealand I said, he failed almost every time he played in NZ that I can remember, I doubt his average was 41 here.

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