Sri Lanka v Bangladesh, 1st Test, Galle, 5th day March 12, 2013

No bite, no contest

The uncharacteristically flat track in Galle led to a snoozefest which denied Sri Lanka a chance of going 1-up at their most bankable venue

Small stretches of the Galle Fort's walls are currently being restored, where wind, waves and time have weathered the original granite and coral construction. Builders have trucked in new rocks to replace the old, but they will hardly find a more hardy material to reinforce the fort than the pitch on which the first Test was played.

It is usually said of Galle tracks that it already looks like a fourth-day surface on the second morning, but this time at close on day five, there was little observable change on the wicket to suggest more than two sessions had transpired. Sri Lanka declared their innings closed twice in pursuit of the unlikely, but in this Test, it seemed a travesty that bowlers can't just choose to declare when they've had enough as well. It did not help that both umpires were reluctant to give batsmen out, not having the safety net of DRS, but perhaps even they cannot be blamed for dozing off.

After the teams had agreed to call it a day an hour before the torture's scheduled end, Angelo Mathews confirmed the exceptional batting conditions were at least partly due to a request made by the home team. "The management had a bit of chat with the curators, but they are professionals," he said. "They have been doing this for the past so many years. We won't poke our fingers, but we did have a chat."

Sri Lanka's likely rationale for wanting a good pitch may have been to help ease an inexperienced batting order into Test cricket on a venue traditionally so bowler friendly that the previous four Tests didn't go to the fifth day. They were not so much eased in, as sent flowers, soft toys and champagne by the ground staff. Sri Lanka will be encouraged that its top six batsman now all have hundreds to their name, but given the paucity of the challenge, most of their Test fifties will rate higher on their list of achievements.

In requesting a good track for the young batsmen, Sri Lanka also seem to have forgotten that their attack has veered from modest to toothless in the past six months. Like a mechanic who inflates a flat tire but neglects the smoke pouring out of the engine, they have done their inexperienced bowlers a disservice and denied themselves the chance to taking a series lead at their most bankable venue. Even Rangana Herath, who averaged 20.30 in Galle before this match, and had two ten-wicket hauls in his last three matches there, was made to look no better than a part-timer, for all the turn he achieved.

The placid conditions also add fuel to the wider question about whether home team advantage should extend to influence on pitch characteristics, especially when the cricket suffers. In December, India's requests for turning pitches at home not only backfired in a 2-1 loss, but produced a dreary Test in Nagpur.

"I wouldn't say that it's against the spirit of cricket to have a chat to the curators, because it's home advantage after all," Mathews said. "We would like to have wickets suitable for our team playing in Sri Lanka."

The wicket was absolutely a road. The batsmen would have loved to bat next couple of days as well
Angelo Mathews

In 2011, the call to prepare an especially dry track for the visiting Australians, even by Galle's standards, ended in the venue being officially warned by the ICC after the wicket had deteriorated drastically from the first day. Sri Lanka also lost that match, as the opposition fast bowlers exploited the extreme variables of bounce.

Galle Tests have ordinarily been exciting, and the surface happily spin-friendly (as rich a contributor to the Test match landscape as Headingley, or the WACA ground), but meddling with its natural characteristics has now twice ended in disappointment for the hosts.

"In a team perspective, we are very disappointed we couldn't pull it off here, but I would say that it was tough. The wicket was absolutely a road. The batsmen would have loved to bat next couple of days as well. It didn't spin at all, but the bowlers tried their best. It was just that the wicket didn't give any sort of assistance. We batted one and half days and got 570 for 4. That says lot about the wicket."

With this year's South Africa Tests having been postponed to 2015 and no home Test series until then, Galle will now take a two-year hiatus. For a venue that has brought bowlers so much joy, it is a shame its last match in a while had to be such a poor one.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • KH. RAFIQUE on March 13, 2013, 8:46 GMT

    'No bite, no contest' what is supposed to be meant?Both team's batsmen have done well.Is it the wonderful batting display of Bangladesh is hurting all the critics and the reporter?Previously SL used to win matches against the opposition courtesy of Murali and Vass.As they lack excellent bowlers so the result would be the obvious one (Hick up is that its against Bangladesh).SL fan must get used to it when they play against stronger opponents.Best wishes from Bangladesh.

  • Dummy4 on March 13, 2013, 8:27 GMT

    Its a pitiful site that no Lankan batsman could get to double hundred. Or was it that BD was considered so ordinary as an opposition that they were playing too casually. Such kinda wicket would expect huge individual scores.

  • Rahul on March 13, 2013, 7:26 GMT

    Mahela lost a golden opportunity to increase his average on SL roads. Now i got to know y SL postpone SA test series

  • Imran on March 13, 2013, 6:45 GMT

    The pitch states have been regular for a long time.majority of their players have bettered their averages,scored runs,partnerships...all on home pitches.

  • Ricky on March 13, 2013, 5:50 GMT

    Wonder what Chris Broad and ICC think of this wicket now...may be they are happy it is now equal with the southern highway and not the mine field it used to be. Disgraceful wicket and going by the history of RPS its going to be pretty much the same.

  • Divine on March 13, 2013, 4:33 GMT

    I just don't understand why people are blaming BD for the flat wicket, this ain't BD team's home ground, is it? If SL wants to win in style why don't they produce a pitch where bowlers can do well? We should talk about what happened not what might have happened or what could happen. It is getting really boring now!

  • Bipul on March 13, 2013, 4:15 GMT

    Home team always have advantage on a challenging pitch. But Sri Lanka opted for the reverse. Now B'desh players have settled, feeling good about themselves, they will be harder to beat. This poor SL strategy will hit them bad in this series and their overall standing.

  • Dummy4 on March 13, 2013, 0:55 GMT

    These kinds of pitches where the batsman can go on for ever, and there is no purchase for the bowlers is not good for test cricket. Even if a test match ends on the 4th day, but if there was a real contest between bat and ball, it is worth watching.

    Those who want to have the excitement of watching batsmen hitting huge sixes and fours, most of the match, making the bowers mere by-standers, should watch T-20s.

  • Rahul on March 12, 2013, 19:49 GMT

    Finally the ultimate goal is achieved. Better average for ordinary players. BD has scored 600 on this road and fans r happy like they have won a WC or no. 1 status in test. Mind u neither of these will be possible for either of the team

  • Ian on March 12, 2013, 17:15 GMT

    What a pathetic pitch. Disgrace to Test cricket. I reckon they prepared it to make sure the young SL team would score big. Probably expected BAN to perform the usual collapse. Knowing Anuruddha Polonnowita, it's difficult to expect a lively track at Colombo.

    Postponing the SA series was one of the most disgusting decisions in the history of SL cricket. Could have been a pretty good series and a great opportunity for SL to make a statement.

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