Dilshan demands batting improvement
Sri Lanka's captain Tillakaratne Dilshan has demanded more from his batsmen following their first-innings surrender for 174 in the second Test against Australia in Pallekele. He threatened numerous changes to the team if performances did not improve.
Dilshan was one of a series of batsmen dismissed cheaply as Sri Lanka lurched to 76 for 5 at lunch on the first day, a position from which they never recovered despite an excellent batting pitch. The start seemed to reflect the chaotic nature of the hosts' lead-in to the Test, with Rangana Herath (finger) and Ajantha Mendis (back) ruled out on the morning of the match due to injuries.
"Definitely there is something wrong in the batting," Dilshan said. "We are talking, discussing, we are doing a lot of hard work in the training and we are discussing a lot of things, but now is the time to deliver.
"We can't say the wicket is bad. They've bowled really well but we've played the last series in England, where there was a better attack, and on a difficult wicket we batted really well. Now the players should put their hands up and deliver, they have to deliver, now is the time, we can't wait anymore.
"This is the third time we've got out cheaply [including 82 on the final day against England in Cardiff]. They bowled really well in the start but our batsmen didn't bat well, that is why we got out. It is a good wicket, we are playing seven batsmen, we can't expect 174 all out."
Several ideas have been tossed about in Sri Lanka's dressing room, including the employment of the sports psychologist Rudi Webster at the conclusion of the series. Dilshan also said the older batsmen, including himself and Thilan Samaraweera, had to take more responsibility or risk being dropped. Their struggles contrasted with the success of Angelo Mathews, who followed a second-innings 95 in Galle with 58 here.
"He's batted really well in the No. 7 position," Dilshan said. "We have problems with the middle order and the top order. We don't want to change someone batting really well at No. 7, but we have to think about the second innings. Maybe change the batting line-up and send someone in top."
Dilshan described the changes to the side minutes before play as "unfortunate". They necessitated the inclusion of the offspinner Suraj Randiv, who was going to be dropped, and the legspinner Seekkuge Prasanna, making his debut.
Herath was struck on the finger during a fielding drill on the eve of the Test, while Mendis had a back problem that worsened in the lead-up to the game. "We thought he [Herath] would be okay but today he tried to grip the ball and he couldn't, his finger was very sore," Dilshan said. "Ajantha had a back injury in last one-dayer but he managed to play, but today morning he talked to the physio, he was worse than the last few weeks. I don't want to take a chance and play him, so that is why we gave a youngster a chance. Unfortunately we had to make two changes in the morning."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo