South Africa v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 1st day January 3, 2012

Bowlers punish Dilshan for wrong decision

The only thing worse than Tillakaratne Dilshan putting South Africa in on a flat pitch was the way his bowlers came out not even believing they could take a wicket
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The question is not what Tillakaratne Dilshan, the Sri Lanka captain, was thinking when he put South Africa in to bat in Cape Town; it is whether he was thinking at all.

Perhaps, he was being cautious. The last time Sri Lanka played at Newlands, they elected to bat and were shot out for 95. They have already suffered two batting embarrassments on this tour and, after the high of winning in Durban, Dilshan may have wanted to avoid sending his batsmen in for another battle.

He may also have wanted to attack a South African batting line-up that is under a bit of pressure after the performance in Durban. Seldom is the South African Test batting line-up described as fragile, but with Alviro Petersen returning to the side for the first time since January, and the two Jacques, Kallis and Rudolph, having looked uncomfortable through the series, Dilshan may have wanted his quicks to have a go and try to exploit something in the pitch early on the first day.

Except, the pitch offered nothing and the South African line-up looked anything but fragile as they romped to 347 for 3. Dilshan's pre-match prediction that the deck would provide something for the fast bowlers turned out to be completely incorrect. "We thought the pitch will do something but it didn't do as we expected," Champaka Ramanayake, Sri Lanka's bowling coach, said. Perhaps more worrying for Sri Lanka is that there are already some cracks appearing and the pitch looks like it will deteriorate to provide assistance to the spinners later on. That means batting last could be difficult.

While Dilshan's decision was a particularly bad one, his bowling attack's attempt to back it up was far worse. The Sri Lanka bowlers came out looking absolutely listless, as though they wanted to punish their captain for his mistake. Chanaka Welegedara and Thisara Perera wasted the new ball; Dhammika Prasad showed a little more determination but in between his two wickets lacked control; Angelo Matthews bowled minimally but badly; even the usually consistent Rangana Herath was ineffective.

From the outset, Sri Lanka looked like they did not want to take wickets and did not believe they could. Welegedara's second over was a manual for what not to do with the new ball. He overpitched and was driven, he dropped it too short and was pulled, and then he overpitched again. In between, he managed to overstep and dish one up too wide. In any format of the game, that over would have been classified as rubbish. As if that wasn't enough, Perera pitched in with two boundary balls of his own in the next over.

Sri Lanka were lucky that Graeme Smith decided early on that he wasn't going to waste time against their bowling. He played at balls that he could have left and when he reached to cut Prasad inside-edged onto leg stump, getting himself out rather than succumbing to the bowling. The only wicket-taking ball Sri Lanka produced in the morning session was the one Prasad angled in to trap Hashim Amla lbw. Despite being shabby, Sri Lanka had a chance to win the morning session when Kallis hit a pull in the air towards deep square leg off the fourth ball he faced. Welegedara did not pick the ball up in the deep and the chance was gone. "We could have kept them to less than 80 runs and taken the wicket of Kallis," Ramanayake said of the first session.

Instead, Sri Lanka may as well have handed Alviro Petersen and Jacques Kallis deck chairs and drinks with umbrellas in them while inviting them to sit on the pitch and enjoy the view. The bunch of short balls banged in made things simple for the batsmen, who pulled repeatedly. The fact that 64% of the runs came on the leg side reflects how Sri Lanka's bowlers failed to attack the off stump or bowl more challenging lengths. Ramanayake said the problem was that the lengths were too short. "The line wasn't too bad but the lengths could have been better. We bowled too short and Kallis played really well."

With the sun burning down on their backs, Sri Lanka's bowlers got worse. At some point in the post-lunch session it really seemed that they had stopped caring. By then, they must have known that the only way they would get wickets was by cutting off runs and building pressure. But they could not stop Petersen and Kallis' free scoring. "We let them go, we lost grip," Ramanayake said. "We didn't do well at all. We are disappointed."

Sri Lanka's bowlers do not need Ramanayake, or anyone else, to tell them that they bowled poorly. They need only glance at the scoreboard for evidence of that. The only consolation is that the pitch will probably still be good for batting when Sri Lanka's batsmen get their turn, and Ramanayake said he hoped they could match South Africa's effort. "Tomorrow is another day so hopefully we can get seven wickets and then bat well. It's a good batting wicket so our players can also score some runs."

If only they had the chance to do it on the first day, Dilshan may think.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on January 4, 2012, 15:59 GMT

    Dilshan is the favorite whipping boy of all comers. If there was any fault on his part it was in not getting the bowlers to ball in the right places. Only he was brave enough to take the team on away tours without an established bowling attack. But when the team does well, oh never mind.

  • TYJAY on January 4, 2012, 15:21 GMT

    Dilshan again gave up his wicket. I cannot understand why he is playing test cricket !!!!

  • ChandraPrince on January 4, 2012, 14:58 GMT

    Watching Dilshan swing his bat reminds me of a Japanese Samuri with his sword...

  • ChandraPrince on January 4, 2012, 14:46 GMT

    Just before the match Dilshan said " I don't think too much...!" It appears to me like, he doesn't think at all...!

  • on January 4, 2012, 12:52 GMT

    I'm an Indian supporter. Mr. Editor, Change the heading Dilshan is not playing for school team to make decision of his own. Its a team management decision. After 1st match loss everyone blamed him after 2nd match everyone praise him in 3rd match once again they r scolding him. After 2nd match no one has criticise Smith. Its all happening for SL, IND & Pak. I agree his form is not good also he is not fit for captain but With this team he cannot perform more than this. Why don't u guys blame Sangakkara or jayawardena they r ready to lead a IPL team why not the SL team

  • matchfixerpkn on January 4, 2012, 12:49 GMT

    dnt think srilanka si fit for test cricket..they lost hme series badly to india , lost series in neutral venue badly to pakistan (withoiut aamir and asif) in subcontinet.. so its like a day dream for srialnka for future test cricket ..whenever team want to win match they can invite srilanaka for vicotry..

  • on January 4, 2012, 11:53 GMT

    @Mid_Wicket: Steve Waugh was the most successful Australian captain and he many times chose to bowl first. But ofcourse, he had a damn good bowling attack with him! And Ricky ponting lost some matches very badly due to his decision to bat first on a bowling first wicket!

  • Fast_Track_Bully on January 4, 2012, 11:40 GMT

    SA and Australia are in same situation...India can try for an innings defeat...and I don't think SL can achieve that!

  • on January 4, 2012, 10:24 GMT

    This is going crazy..they threw away the chance to rise up in the rankings letting SA bat first.They say the wounded strike harder. A ridiculous decision to bowl first in a magnificent batting track. I dont know what they are doing with not playing Ajantha Mendis and how come Dilhara's carring water when he's supposed to be injured???

  • Mid_Wicket on January 4, 2012, 10:14 GMT

    if you are a skipper of a cricket team, take Ricky Ponting as an example. everytime he won the toss and batted first without considering either pitch or the weather. and most importantly see in how many tests he proved that by winning. refer statsguru........

  • on January 4, 2012, 15:59 GMT

    Dilshan is the favorite whipping boy of all comers. If there was any fault on his part it was in not getting the bowlers to ball in the right places. Only he was brave enough to take the team on away tours without an established bowling attack. But when the team does well, oh never mind.

  • TYJAY on January 4, 2012, 15:21 GMT

    Dilshan again gave up his wicket. I cannot understand why he is playing test cricket !!!!

  • ChandraPrince on January 4, 2012, 14:58 GMT

    Watching Dilshan swing his bat reminds me of a Japanese Samuri with his sword...

  • ChandraPrince on January 4, 2012, 14:46 GMT

    Just before the match Dilshan said " I don't think too much...!" It appears to me like, he doesn't think at all...!

  • on January 4, 2012, 12:52 GMT

    I'm an Indian supporter. Mr. Editor, Change the heading Dilshan is not playing for school team to make decision of his own. Its a team management decision. After 1st match loss everyone blamed him after 2nd match everyone praise him in 3rd match once again they r scolding him. After 2nd match no one has criticise Smith. Its all happening for SL, IND & Pak. I agree his form is not good also he is not fit for captain but With this team he cannot perform more than this. Why don't u guys blame Sangakkara or jayawardena they r ready to lead a IPL team why not the SL team

  • matchfixerpkn on January 4, 2012, 12:49 GMT

    dnt think srilanka si fit for test cricket..they lost hme series badly to india , lost series in neutral venue badly to pakistan (withoiut aamir and asif) in subcontinet.. so its like a day dream for srialnka for future test cricket ..whenever team want to win match they can invite srilanaka for vicotry..

  • on January 4, 2012, 11:53 GMT

    @Mid_Wicket: Steve Waugh was the most successful Australian captain and he many times chose to bowl first. But ofcourse, he had a damn good bowling attack with him! And Ricky ponting lost some matches very badly due to his decision to bat first on a bowling first wicket!

  • Fast_Track_Bully on January 4, 2012, 11:40 GMT

    SA and Australia are in same situation...India can try for an innings defeat...and I don't think SL can achieve that!

  • on January 4, 2012, 10:24 GMT

    This is going crazy..they threw away the chance to rise up in the rankings letting SA bat first.They say the wounded strike harder. A ridiculous decision to bowl first in a magnificent batting track. I dont know what they are doing with not playing Ajantha Mendis and how come Dilhara's carring water when he's supposed to be injured???

  • Mid_Wicket on January 4, 2012, 10:14 GMT

    if you are a skipper of a cricket team, take Ricky Ponting as an example. everytime he won the toss and batted first without considering either pitch or the weather. and most importantly see in how many tests he proved that by winning. refer statsguru........

  • rukii on January 4, 2012, 10:07 GMT

    I dont think his decision is a bad one. on this team there is just one specialist spinner and there medium pace bowlers .It would be worse if Sl elected to bat first ,SA has a very good pace attack and even with the little help that pitch gives to the bowlers SL would be all out for about 300.And it will be another mammoth score by SA and SL will be in more trouble than the current situation.

  • siriherath on January 4, 2012, 9:18 GMT

    They say: if you are only 50% sure about the wicket - bat first. On a glorious sunny and warm day not unlike Colombo,(which is a rarity on some tours), SL elects to bowl after doing the hard work of winning the toss. And then, in that belter of a pitch, all 11 players are sent on a leather hunt from ball one. They are very lucky to have scalped 3 wickets by day end. Had they opted to bat first, with some cautious play to start, they would be there or thereabout with a respectable score, at least. On such a pitch - fast, bouncy and flat, Dilhara would have been a better bet as is Ajantha Mendis. Thisara Perera is so mediocre and lethargic in his stride and delivery, that batsmen even of average skills are given ample time for shot selection before plunder. The best SL can hope for now is to bat well whenever SA decides to declare, which means SL will bake probably till lunch time tomorrow.

  • Nemooneh on January 4, 2012, 8:32 GMT

    I agree with some of the comments; I do not know why Dilhara was dropped? Was it really injury?If it's not, then it's a unforgivable mistake on selection, why on earth are they(selectors) persisting with this Tissara Perera, God only knows,he has done nothing exceptional to warrant selection!They should have played either Ajantha Mendis or blooded a rookie fast bowler, who's not known to SA!! No point criticizing Dilshan over the decision for fielding first, it's rank bad bowling what gave SA the edge!Dilshan now must rally his bowlers to do the basics right,"bowl stump to stump" as one commenter said Champaka is not the right coach, for bowling, Rumesh or Chaminda Vass, specially Chaminda, who was a lion hearted bowler in conditions like this, our batters can match the SA score,high time Mahela pulled his socks up!Good luck Sri Lanka!

  • Predic on January 4, 2012, 7:53 GMT

    Today Australia & South Africa had dominated again.... I hope srilanka will comeback tomm....but I am not sure whether India will comeback tomorrow morning or not...I think its better for india if they play Tests matches only in india...

  • righthandbat on January 4, 2012, 7:03 GMT

    I would love to see Kallis go on to rack up a 300. It would be poetic that one of the greatest batsman who has given his all to the team scores the first triple ton for SA and is given the recognition as a modern great who is as good (if not better) than the likes of Tendulkar, Lara and Ponting.

  • Lankanforever on January 4, 2012, 6:53 GMT

    People be fair, When Srilanka won everyone said it was the othr players performances did it not Dili's Captaincy. Now when things g wrong it is the captain. If you have a simplest idea about how decisions are made for the toss most of you would not have said anything against the captain. Other than Arjuna no captain ever has the final say to what we do after winning the toss. Not even in the domestics. It's a combined decision of the coaching staff Management and the captain. I too say that it was a bad decision but it doesn't say Dili is a bad captain. But having Thisara in the test team is not doing any good for him or the team. It is similar to having Thilan for ODI's . It nearly cost his career. We don't Need the same to be done to Thisara. Beter put Kula in his place.

    P.S. If welagedara took that catch think of the possibilities. The decision might have been great then. That is what happen when classy cricketer gts his chance. Mahela needs jst this type of a thing in this game.

  • LWGLWG on January 4, 2012, 6:34 GMT

    No one can understand this game.It is well planned to loose by SL.If to prove my word is wrong, SL should try and draw the match!

  • Mid_Wicket on January 4, 2012, 6:20 GMT

    well done sri lanka... keep it up with our fielding coach ruwan kalpage and bowling coach legendary ramanayake... its good to see that your courage for inconsistency in all departments.

  • Rahul_78 on January 4, 2012, 5:58 GMT

    For all those who defending Dilshan..Cricketing fact is it is captain who goes out to middle and calls for the toss and decides what to do after winning the toss. Dilshan has been bit of a joke as a captain when Lanka has a legacy of producing commanding leaders like Arjuna and Mahela who more often then not came up trumps in tactical department. The quicker Lanka gets rid of his leadership if at all there is any, better for them.

  • on January 4, 2012, 5:37 GMT

    The tone is too harsh. By the looks of it Moonda has decided to take the path of "Kepler - The Fortune Teller". Forget about Dilshan & Champaka, I wonder what the Head Coach - Marsh has to say about the decision!

    Teams don't reveal their ACTUAL plans, before / while the game is on progress / (for that matter) even after the game. We'll have to wait at least till the post-match interviews to judge how foolish their logic was. As we don't know their (SL's) ACTUAL plan (/ mini-targets), we can't be so sure on how far they are lagging behind.

    If you still feel that you can't get a grip of the rhetoric nature of this sport take a peek at the scores of Test # 1812.

    For the time being, let's sit back enjoy the remaining 4 days - 12 sessions - 360+/- overs, … etc!

  • on January 4, 2012, 4:03 GMT

    I think the turning point was the Catch Welagethara never attempted! That would've been an easy one if he used 2 steps forward. Agree the fact that batting second was turned out to be the bad decision. Considering all the stats & the way the pitch behaved lately in this ground if was no so a bad decision untill it seemed that pitch does not offer anything. Its 50 50 decision. But that catch would've made a whole lot of change of the SA's mindset. Guys this is a mind game as much as a skill game. I am convinced if that catch was taken this match could've turned around. Of course bowlers were totally wayward. They need to be more patience. Hope our batters with match this performance. Most importantly our bowlers avoid JK getting a double !!!

  • on January 4, 2012, 3:40 GMT

    I dnt think itz Dilshan's decision aftr-all. Team Manager coach and senior player must hv talk abt this b4 da Toss. Also the previous match between Aus n SA in this same ground must contributed to that decision (where 19 wkts fell within 80 overs). So itz a risky decision and better to go this way.

  • on January 4, 2012, 3:33 GMT

    when the series is level 1 -1 SL should have opted to bat and take the initiative. Now it's only 1 team can win the match from here onwards and what best SL can do is go for a tame draw !!!!

  • on January 4, 2012, 3:12 GMT

    Right, it's time for all pundits to start with Murali talk again. If Dilshan's decision was wrong, the bowlers' lack of discipline wasn't understandable. Welagedera's non-catch said the whole attitude. It was like you have got the monkey off the back, now you can relax. This sort of thing was more than half expected. Why would you drop Dilhara after recent good performance. You don't meddle with a winning team.

  • on January 4, 2012, 1:23 GMT

    I am not sure whether the decision to bowl first received total support from all team members. It is a poor decision no matter who was involved in making it. SL do not have a formidable bowling line up. However, they bowled well as a unit in Durban and kept up the pressure. Therefore, to take advantage of a deteriorating wicket which would help Rangana Herath in the fourth innings they should have batted first. Not only the captain but also the coaching staff involved in this poor decision should be sacked. Dishan would have considered his own batting form and possibility of fronting up with a freshened up Philander in making up his mind to bowl first. Both Dilshan and Mahela (captain and the captain to be) are hanging in the team based on performance of others. Thilan was dropped after failure in one test match while these two had been failing continuously for last several matches. Release Mahela from the team to write articles and Dilshan to play full time IPL.

  • lananad on January 4, 2012, 0:51 GMT

    Mistake to bowl first. Also Mendis should be playing instead of Perera for sure. Mendis will be very handy later on this wicket. Also some players might pick him but lower order players will have no clue to handle Mendis. Wake up selectors.

  • on January 4, 2012, 0:05 GMT

    I really don't know what went through dilshan's mind when he elected to field, Shows the level of confidence he had with his team. He is an utter failure in captaining the team (an embarrassment to a certain extent) and I don't think sanga or mahela would take the captaincy back, Especially when they know that you don't have bowlers to take 20 wickets. Dilshan should resign from captaincy after this tour and retain some respect (if he had any left) rather than get sacked from the SLC.

  • on January 3, 2012, 23:15 GMT

    Even Champaka Ramanayake was a very ordinary bowler in his days, so how could he advice others to perform ? We need a good head bowling coach. May be Champaka can be the Assistant bowling coach. Ramesh Ratnayake and Chaminda Vass should come in as fast bowling advisers.

  • on January 3, 2012, 22:03 GMT

    I think South Africa's 12th man is Dilshan after letting South Afrcia bat first on a flat track. Dilshan needs to step down as captain and allow Sangakara to take the reins untill Matthews is ready to take control. Perera from what I have seen iis a One day specialist /a back up bowler at best in tests. Perera does not have the pace or the accuracy to really put the frightners on top quality batsmen such as Kallis and co. Prasad should have opened the bowling with welegedera. Today was just a bad day at the office for Welegedera. Not the best day to have one but im sure he will overcome this howler of a day.Unless SA have a collapse in the the remainder of this innings and the second innings and one of the big 3 sri lankan bastmen score heavily I can see Sri Lanka praying for rain to save this test.

  • on January 3, 2012, 22:02 GMT

    Why is Thisara Perera playing??? That dude can't hit the stumps with his bowling neither can he induce an edge. Kulasakera would have been a better option. The way I feel is SL can only win a test outside a country batting first because if they post a reasonable total then they can apply that extra pressure that their bowling does not have. Also. fragile Lankan batting cannot sustain the pressure of batting last. Had SA been batting second chasing a score of around 300+ they wouldnt be batting the way they did yesterday. I don't think SL can avoid follow on and I am possibly looking at yet another innings defeat. Dilshan is a very bad captain and he once again proved it. Please confine him as an opener only and hand over the captaincy to Mathews.

  • r1m2 on January 3, 2012, 21:35 GMT

    SL replaced a bowler averaging ~35 (Fernando) with one averaging ~60 (Prasad) and expected better results with the ball??? How???

  • Cpt.Meanster on January 3, 2012, 21:22 GMT

    Kick Dilshan from the captaincy and things should become a little ok for SL. Dilshan is better off playing in IPL. He doesn't have the knack for intelligent strategies when it comes to field placings and situational awareness. Let's face it.. SL are suffering because they don't have quality bowlers like Murali and Vaas. I still hope their batsmen can score big here and salvage a series draw.

  • on January 3, 2012, 20:53 GMT

    I don't really understand playing both alrounders ( Matthews and Thisara Perera). Thisara can not either bat or ball and I don't understand why some one want him to be in the team.

  • KaveeSriLanka on January 3, 2012, 19:15 GMT

    Just as I thought (and feared)...the Durban win was no real comeback...it was a fluke. Sri Lanka Cricket is still dead and ridiculous at its best. These cricketers should stop making fools out of themselves and embarrassing both themselves and their country. Don't play for a win if you REALLY can't...but play to a level so that Lankan Cricket will not be humiliated across the cricketing world. Please don't rewind time to that dark 1996 era.

  • nickydude on January 3, 2012, 19:13 GMT

    SL's aim of winning a test in SA achieved. Now, they care a damn for the result, even if being thrashed, the body language said it all.

  • spas on January 3, 2012, 19:04 GMT

    Dear Cricinfo, please ask Firdose Moonda to write in the same manner, when Sri Lanka does well.

  • Nathan_123 on January 3, 2012, 18:49 GMT

    Very poor bowling performance by SL. The wicket had plenty to offer but the indiscipline bowing put SL on the back foot from the day one. It was a very negative move by Dilshan to send SA in to bat. We all know why he has done that. I can't see SL coming back to the game here on. May be draw would be a moral victory for SL here on.

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  • Nathan_123 on January 3, 2012, 18:49 GMT

    Very poor bowling performance by SL. The wicket had plenty to offer but the indiscipline bowing put SL on the back foot from the day one. It was a very negative move by Dilshan to send SA in to bat. We all know why he has done that. I can't see SL coming back to the game here on. May be draw would be a moral victory for SL here on.

  • spas on January 3, 2012, 19:04 GMT

    Dear Cricinfo, please ask Firdose Moonda to write in the same manner, when Sri Lanka does well.

  • nickydude on January 3, 2012, 19:13 GMT

    SL's aim of winning a test in SA achieved. Now, they care a damn for the result, even if being thrashed, the body language said it all.

  • KaveeSriLanka on January 3, 2012, 19:15 GMT

    Just as I thought (and feared)...the Durban win was no real comeback...it was a fluke. Sri Lanka Cricket is still dead and ridiculous at its best. These cricketers should stop making fools out of themselves and embarrassing both themselves and their country. Don't play for a win if you REALLY can't...but play to a level so that Lankan Cricket will not be humiliated across the cricketing world. Please don't rewind time to that dark 1996 era.

  • on January 3, 2012, 20:53 GMT

    I don't really understand playing both alrounders ( Matthews and Thisara Perera). Thisara can not either bat or ball and I don't understand why some one want him to be in the team.

  • Cpt.Meanster on January 3, 2012, 21:22 GMT

    Kick Dilshan from the captaincy and things should become a little ok for SL. Dilshan is better off playing in IPL. He doesn't have the knack for intelligent strategies when it comes to field placings and situational awareness. Let's face it.. SL are suffering because they don't have quality bowlers like Murali and Vaas. I still hope their batsmen can score big here and salvage a series draw.

  • r1m2 on January 3, 2012, 21:35 GMT

    SL replaced a bowler averaging ~35 (Fernando) with one averaging ~60 (Prasad) and expected better results with the ball??? How???

  • on January 3, 2012, 22:02 GMT

    Why is Thisara Perera playing??? That dude can't hit the stumps with his bowling neither can he induce an edge. Kulasakera would have been a better option. The way I feel is SL can only win a test outside a country batting first because if they post a reasonable total then they can apply that extra pressure that their bowling does not have. Also. fragile Lankan batting cannot sustain the pressure of batting last. Had SA been batting second chasing a score of around 300+ they wouldnt be batting the way they did yesterday. I don't think SL can avoid follow on and I am possibly looking at yet another innings defeat. Dilshan is a very bad captain and he once again proved it. Please confine him as an opener only and hand over the captaincy to Mathews.

  • on January 3, 2012, 22:03 GMT

    I think South Africa's 12th man is Dilshan after letting South Afrcia bat first on a flat track. Dilshan needs to step down as captain and allow Sangakara to take the reins untill Matthews is ready to take control. Perera from what I have seen iis a One day specialist /a back up bowler at best in tests. Perera does not have the pace or the accuracy to really put the frightners on top quality batsmen such as Kallis and co. Prasad should have opened the bowling with welegedera. Today was just a bad day at the office for Welegedera. Not the best day to have one but im sure he will overcome this howler of a day.Unless SA have a collapse in the the remainder of this innings and the second innings and one of the big 3 sri lankan bastmen score heavily I can see Sri Lanka praying for rain to save this test.

  • on January 3, 2012, 23:15 GMT

    Even Champaka Ramanayake was a very ordinary bowler in his days, so how could he advice others to perform ? We need a good head bowling coach. May be Champaka can be the Assistant bowling coach. Ramesh Ratnayake and Chaminda Vass should come in as fast bowling advisers.