Sri Lanka v England, 1st Test, Galle, 2nd day March 27, 2012

Players defend Galle pitch

After an official warning for the last Test in Galle, the ICC will again look keenly on the pitch after 17 wickets fell on day two

Games dominated by bowlers make for the most absorbing contests in Test cricket and the opening two days of this match have been compelling viewing for those inside the Galle stadium, those watching from the Dutch Fort and the millions glued to television sets. However, one beleaguered observer was wishing that batsmen hadn't donated quite so many wickets so cheaply.

Jayananda Warnaweera, the Galle groundsman and a former Sri Lanka offspinner who tormented England 19 years ago, was under as much scrutiny as England's floundering top order heading into this match. The previous pitch he had produced, for last August's Test against Australia, resulted in an official warning from the ICC for excessive early turn. The square had to undergo remedial work and another poor surface would have threatened the ground's Test status.

That would have been a huge blow to the city which, ticket disputes notwithstanding, has been a popular choice for visiting fans - especially, but not just, England's.

"I'm happy with the pitch," Warnaweera told ESPNcricnfo. "It is has turned a bit but in my opinion neither England nor Sri Lanka batted very well on the second day. You shouldn't produce dead Test pitches just to get scores of 600, that's my motto."

Two Test batting sides should not have lost 25 wickets in two days. England's quick bowlers exploited a little residual moisture in the first hour and there was increasing help for the spinners as the match moved through the second day with Swann finding sharp turn as he kept England just about alive with four wickets. Warnaweera was grateful for the support his pitch received from the most successful batsmen on either side.

Sri Lanka's captain, Mahela Jayawardene, said: "On day two we've probably had a bit more spin that we are used to but the last four weeks have been very hot so the wickets are unusually dry. But there are no demons in the track like for the Australia game where it was jumping from day one. There is adequate spin, but if you want to dig deep you can bat as well. It's the challenge of Test cricket."

"We wanted to give the bowlers a rest. They have been so consistent and we have let them down but the bowlers will know it's not through lack of effort."
Ian Bell

Ian Bell, the only England batsman to reach fifty, was of similar mind. "To get bowled out for under 200 isn't great on that wicket which is pretty good to be honest," he said. "There's nothing to scare you. Obviously it's starting to dry out a bit more now and it turned towards the back end of the day."

Alarm bells need not ring. This is a Test match pitch on the subcontinent. If pitches are not going to turn here then where will they turn? Within fair limits, it is what home advantage is all about and why winning overseas is the litmus test for any team. Far less fuss is made about the ball seaming around off a green-top than when it spits for the spinners. There is even a school of thought that the ICC warning after the Australia game was harsh. Clearly, the surface had started too dry but pitches like that surely do less harm to the game than when 500 plays 500 and everyone goes home bored.

There are similarities in how this match has developed to the Australia Test but this time the home side are on top. Last year Mike Hussey's 95 pushed Australia to a competitive total before Nathan Lyon's five-wicket haul secured a big lead. This time around, Jayawardene's solo effort pushed Sri Lanka to a good score before Rangana Herath, a conventional spinner like Lyon, claimed the bowling honours.

Herath was given a helping hand during his haul. He is a workmanlike bowler who has carried Sri Lanka's attack since Muttiah Muralitharan's retirement. His average in the low 30s is perfectly respectable for an orthodox left-arm spinner in this era. Sometimes, though, you would have thought that England were facing Murali.

All except Bell had a significant hand in their dismissal: Andrew Strauss, Jonathan Trott and Stuart Broad swept across the line; Matt Prior and Samit Patel were caught on the back foot. Those four lbws, along with Monty Panesar's dismissal and Suranga Lakmal's early capture of Alastair Cook, equalled the most leg-befores England have had in a Test innings and not since 1977-78 in Karachi have they had six.

And the DRS indicated that they were all out, although for Strauss that was only after Jayawardene had successfully used one of his reviews. In contrast, neither Prior or Broad could save themselves by resorting to technology. It was an innings that showed how DRS works well and also showed how, most of the time, the on-field umpires make the correct call.

Bell was left to regret another poor England batting display. "We wanted to give the bowlers a rest," he said. "They have been so consistent and in a way we have let them down. The bowlers will know it's not through lack of effort. This game is still on and if we can put in one performance it can be a good Test."

The England bowlers may not be only ones feeling a bit miffed overnight. The supporters will not look entirely happy upon a three-day contest and not just because of what is looking a likely defeat for the visitors. After all the talk about high ticket prices there will not be any refund policy, although they can console themselves with the thought that there are worst places to have a couple of spare days. But while the fans can loll on the beach, England's batsmen could be heading for the nets.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Srinivas on March 29, 2012, 14:15 GMT

    @Meety, you are right on the mark. Very well said. Agree with you almost completely except for onething - Warne and MacGill were wrist spinners. Finger spinners won't get any assistance from 'grassbowls'.

  • kumar on March 29, 2012, 13:02 GMT

    Except ENG all of the teams are in kind of transition stage. We cannot expect much from this ENG team because ENG's best team lost many matches outside of ENG. India is right now very low in confidence for test matches. I still say India is best in ODIs compared to other teams. That's true playing test match with India is like playing with minnow team only until India comes into form. Right now they are in transition stage.

  • Dummy4 on March 29, 2012, 11:16 GMT

    whats the purpose of this article? is there a MAXIMUM no. of wickets that can fall on a day, to be labelled as a 'good' pitch?? Are you trying to make test cricket also BATSMEN-FRIENDLY like the ODIs?

  • Phil on March 29, 2012, 8:31 GMT

    Just looking at this article again. Nowhere in the body of it does it say the ICC are sending anyone or are considering looking closely at wicket. Only in the heading does it suggest they will look at it. Are they doing actually doing anything or is it just speculation that they might? If they are, I presume it can only be because of the warning from last year, as no-one seems to be suggesting it's a bad pitch.

  • hayden on March 28, 2012, 23:34 GMT

    @adrianct1971 haha mate the mcg is a football ground from march every year! not that your conspiricy theory wasnt a fun read. adelaide is about as sub continent friendly as you find in aus!

  • stuart on March 28, 2012, 18:54 GMT

    Do we feel that some people like to say an east vs west issue in every part of cricket.The pitch is fine and not hearing any complaints from English players.

  • Jason on March 28, 2012, 14:08 GMT

    @Fast_Track_Bull, not from me you wont, we failed in the first innings through the batsmens own stupid shot selections.

  • Jason on March 28, 2012, 12:51 GMT

    @adrianct1971, in regards to the UK, SA, Aus,NZ, the problem of excessive swing is often due more to overhead conditions than it is the pitch. In England when you win the toss the general advice is look up rather than down. Most English pitches are considered flat on sunny days, but the ball can bend swing dramatically on overcast/humid days. IMHO, Pitches should spin in the first session of a test as it did last year, neither should they have cracks that aid seamers until the 3rd/4th day.

  • Manesh on March 28, 2012, 12:19 GMT

    @YorkshirePudding. Wait for the test result and then you can hear that. lol.

  • Nathan on March 28, 2012, 12:09 GMT

    Congratulations to Jayananda Warnaweera on producing two fantastic test pitches in a row. Quality pitches don't emasculate bowlers. Two of the best wickets in the world in my opinion are the Gabba and Galle.

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