Sangakkara calls for extended runs for players
Kumar Sangakkara, the Sri Lanka batsman, has called for stability in the team after they gave themselves a chance of staving off a Test match and series defeat by Australia in Pallekele. While he acknowledged the team's poor performances with the bat so far in the series, he said the batsmen needed to be given extended runs without the constant fear of being dropped. Only that, he said, could bring positive results - Sri Lanka have not won a Test match since the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan..
"The first thing is the guys have to be pretty solid in their minds about what their roles are," Sangakkara said. "They've also got to be comfortable in the fact they're here because they're good enough and also that they're going to be given a nice, long-lasting run to prove what they can do. No-one comes here easily, everyone's done the hard work in the A side or in first-class cricket to get to this level and earn a Test cap for Sri Lanka.
"But it's hard for batsmen to play looking over their shoulders; they need to be told 'we trust you enough to go out and do the job for the country' and these guys will respond to that. I think [Tillakaratne] Dilshan's done that pretty well. You're seeing slow results, but at all times the senior guys have to keep putting their hands up and performing; that's what's going to allow the newcomers to perform even better."
Sri Lanka started the fourth day in Pallekele 237 runs behind after a first-innings surrender for 174. By the close they were 223 for 2, just 14 behind, with Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene in occupation on the cusp of the second new ball.
"It was important we showed some character in this innings," Sangakkara said, "especially since the last three innings we've had opportunities to try to win Test matches but we haven't done that with our batting. Today was another opportunity for the guys to go out there and graft the runs and if we get a good start again tomorrow morning we can put some pressure back on the Australians."
Under a new captain in Michael Clarke, Australia brought an inexperienced bowling attack to Sri Lanka, but Sangakkara expressed genuine respect for the way the visitors have gone about their work, forcing the hosts to accept that hard graft was the only path to runs.
"It's pretty disappointing but we can't point the finger at anyone else but ourselves [about the batting so far]. Test matches are usually won or lost on first-innings totals; very rarely do you see huge comebacks in the third and fourth innings. As a batting side we're going up against an Australian attack that's come out here and showed us how disciplined and well planned they are in their bowling. We've got to be up for the fight.
"It is not just a case of batting a session or batting two sessions, it is about batting five, six, seven sessions against these guys to build up good totals. It's hard to allow bowlers to dominate the course of things throughout, but they've done a really good job of bowling straight, bowling great areas and bowling to their fields. This is not a side against whom you can score a hundred in a session or two, it is a case of pushing the Australia bowlers into their third or fourth spells, tiring them out and then grafting your runs."
The DRS caused some more headaches for both sides on the fourth day, as Tharanga Paranavitana was first the beneficiary then the victim of its vagaries. In both instances replays suggested there might have been a deflection to the keeper but there did not appear to be conclusive evidence of an edge; however, while Paranavitana survived the first review, the second not-out decision was overturned. Sangakkara said technology was not yet 100% accurate, and therefore a state of compromise had to be reached between those providing technology and those compelled to use it.
"We've all seen technology; we've seen the good and the bad of it. We've seen Hawk-Eye not picking up the turn of the ball, depending on the distance between where the ball pitches and where it hits the pad; you've seen Hotspot sometimes fail in the India-England series, so the debate will go on.
"Today we saw Paranavitana given not-out on the field and the decision overturned by the third umpire, so that'll probably be another point of debate. I think everybody's got to come to a middle ground, where you've got to accept that it's not 100% if you're using it and be comfortable with that, or go back and say we'll wait until technology is 100%."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo