Sri Lanka series review

Batting woes continue to hurt Sri Lanka

As they did against England earlier this year, Sri Lanka failed to hold onto a series lead at home as New Zealand's pace bowlers delivered victory in Colombo to reignite debate about the home side's frailties

Andrew Fernando

November 30, 2012

Comments: 20 | Text size: A | A

Tillakaratne Dilshan was bowled through the gate by Tim Southee, Sri Lanka v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Colombo, 2nd day, November 26, 2012
Sri Lanka suffered top-order collapses in both Tests, and in Colombo they did not get away with it © Associated Press

Even before Mahela Jayawardene admitted Sri Lanka were the less happy side with a 1-1 result in the Test series their dismay was obvious, and perhaps justified, given the context. The last time New Zealand visited, the hosts recorded two crushing wins. They had Muttiah Muralitharan in their ranks then, but this New Zealand side arrived had arrived in Sri Lanka with a significantly poorer reputation. Sri Lanka's comfortable victory in the ODI series only frayed their opponents' esteem further, and a rapid loss for the visitors in Galle saw them plummet to rock bottom.

Perhaps there was some complacency in the Sri Lanka performance at the P Sara, but the primary reason for their failure in the second Test had already appeared in the first. In Galle, Sri Lanka seemed destined for a first innings deficit at 50 for 5, before Jayawardene and Angelo Mathews added 156 together to lift Sri Lanka out of distress.

Dimuth Karunaratne can be forgiven for a first innings duck on debut that almost seems a rite of passage now for Sri Lankan openers, but Tharanga Paranavitana's technique against the moving ball had seemingly not improved since being dropped from the side, largely for that reason. Kumar Sangakkara and Thilan Samaraweera also failed to show the judgement necessary to survive quality new-ball bowling, though to be fair to Samaraweera, he was set up beautifully by Tim Southee, who trapped him with one that jagged in after having bowled several overs of outswing.

At the P Sara Oval, on the same pitch that Sri Lanka's seam bowlers had managed only 2 for 165, the top order folded again, sinking to 12 for 3 in less than six overs. This time there was no vicious swing to blame, though New Zealand's bowlers certainly achieved as much movement as the conditions allowed and did so at sharp pace and with discipline.

Tillakaratne Dilshan was undone by a straight ball - perhaps one that surprised him with its speed - Sangakkara failed to control Southee's bounce, though even he will wonder why he was hooking so early in his innings, and Jayawardene fell having misjudged a Trent Boult delivery that moved away from him. The second innings was even worse for Sri Lanka's top four, who again failed to counter the moving ball and were reduced to 46 for 4 as their side sought a series-saving draw.

Sri Lanka's batsmen have never been comfortable against pace, movement and bounce, and on the last occasion in which they had encountered high quality fast bowling in Tests, they capitulated similarly. Save for that famous victory on a dry Durban surface, an innings loss and another defeat as close to an innings loss as it is possible to get, were their returns from a tour of South Africa. Even at home, Sri Lanka played James Anderson poorly in March, when England levelled their series at the P Sara, as New Zealand did.

It is becoming a weakness Sri Lanka must urgently address as international pitches at home become more seamer friendly with each series and they can no longer rely solely on their considerable skill against spin to win Tests at home. Even during the World Twenty20, teams expressed their surprise at the amount of movement available at Pallekele, while Hambantota is even more helpful, though that venue has not seen a Test match yet. At the P Sara, the bounce which made New Zealand's batsmen more comfortable added to Sri Lanka's woes. It is a worrying sign as Sri Lanka prepare to depart to Australia for a full tour which includes their first Boxing Day Test in 17 years.

To add to the concerns Sri Lanka's seam bowlers also emerged from the series looking lacklustre, despite a creditable first-up performance in Galle. Chanaka Welegedara, the left-armer, is still coming back from a shoulder injury. His absence was felt at the P Sara where the seam attack was woefully short on penetration and at times could not even hold down an end while Rangana Herath attacked from the other. A return of 12 wickets between Nuwan Kulasekara and Shaminda Eranga, in which New Zealand's new-ball pair plundered 21 scalps, illustrates how far they have to go to become a good all-round Test bowling unit.

Herath and Mathews were two major positives for the hosts, but meaningful contributions from elsewhere in the side were limited to a single innings or a lone spell. New Zealand was an opponent Sri Lanka could have boosted their confidence against with the sterner challenges ahead, but instead they have finished on a deflating note with only two of their players truly in form.

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Narbavi on (December 3, 2012, 16:52 GMT)

@Sinhaya: So much talk for a team which is yet to register their first win in Aus and their first series win in ENG which will never happen!! Yes we lost 0-8 but atleast we won tests in our previous tours in 2007 against both ENG and AUS. infact against ENG we went on to win, even in SA in 2011 we would have won if it wasn't for that monumental effort from Kallis, We dominated the Saffers in the second and third test, finally managing to draw the series 1-1

Posted by Narbavi on (December 3, 2012, 12:03 GMT)

@Sinhaya: We didn't win in durban because of absence of DRS, it is actually srilanka who beat pakistan because of absence of DRS and in your series against england only one test didn't have rain interruption which was the first test in cardiff and you lost, the other two were constantly disturbed by rain, if it hadn't happened we would have seen a 3-0 result!!

Posted by Sinhaya on (December 2, 2012, 14:51 GMT)

@Narbavi, yeah you all beat South Africa for the first ever time in 2007. Remember in 2010 Durban test it was umpires who helped you to win it as if DRS was there, De Villiers and Boucher would have batted on and chased the target. You all got thrashed 4-0 in England last year and we managed to restrict it to just 1-0. If we batted sensibly on the last day in Cardiff, we could have kept it to 0-0. That is how it is my friend.

Posted by stormy16 on (December 2, 2012, 14:28 GMT)

I am afraid SL were poor (again!) and if not for a spectacular NZ collapse in the second innings in Galle, may have even lost the series. SL's batting didnt reach 300 in any completed innings and the top order knocked over in all three against a decent (not a top quality) attack. I am not sure why Para is pursued with - he was dropped a while ago for doing nothing, now recalled and still doing nothing and now picked for Aus! The blunt reality is the odds are neither test in Aus will reach the 5th if the SL batting continues the way it has in the recent past.

Posted by Hitwicket99 on (December 2, 2012, 11:54 GMT)

I totally agree with James Anderson. I'll have to run for cover from my Aussie workmates who will give me an earful. I must see if I can apply for my annual leave to coincide with the SL tour. I don't think Aus will need to bat twice in any match. The only positive aspect is that we have been spared the agony of playing in Perth or Brisbane. MCG and SCG are less hostile towards our batters.

Posted by Sinhaya on (December 2, 2012, 11:32 GMT)

@Narbavi, yeah you all beat South Africa for the first ever time in 2007. Remember in 2010 Durban test it was umpires who helped you to win it as if DRS was there, De Villiers and Boucher would have batted on and chased the target. You all got thrashed 4-0 in England last year and we managed to restrict it to just 1-0. If we batted sensibly on the last day in Cardiff, we could have kept it to 0-0. That is how it is indeed.

Posted by Narbavi on (December 2, 2012, 9:54 GMT)

@Sinhaya: I will help you with that, the thing is that was the first ever time your team beat south africa in a test match in their home, then you managed to draw against england in tests in your home, you beat pakistan to win a test series after 3 long years, this is how it is!!

Posted by   on (December 2, 2012, 9:49 GMT)

I am an Australian citizen of SriLankan origin. I love SL and its cricket team.I think SL is in for a real tharshing over here in Australia. I am sure most tests will be finished within 3-4 days. I sincerely hope they will put up a good fight. We saw what Aussies did to India recently. SL cricket is fast declining since the appointment of De Mel to the board of control. If you cant win at home against Kiwis then ??? Paranawithan cluless against any type of bowling. Enjoy the trip.

Posted by Sinhaya on (December 2, 2012, 8:47 GMT)

@Hitwicket99, I think you are exaggerating. If we are so bad how come we are the last team to beat South Africa in a test match and that too in December last year in South Africa. If we are so bad how did we manage to beat England in a test match this year. Sorry I disagree.

Posted by Hitwicket99 on (December 2, 2012, 8:03 GMT)

Sorry to be blunt but SL are in for an absolute trashing here in Australia. Not that the the Aussies are good either, but still they are far better than SL and still hovering around no 3/4 spot. Its just that England and South Africa are miles ahead of the pack and we SLs are at the bottom of that pile.

The present line-up is not even a shadow of what we had between 1996-2001. To be honest SL should be ranked alongside Bangladesh as we are just hopeless. After Sanga and Mahela retire we will be on par with Namibia, Kenya and Ireland.

Posted by   on (December 1, 2012, 13:54 GMT)

why not start with what vasa did to nz bowling.hope nz will keep him. dil bat good every full moon.19 runs, sang 21 ,paranavithana less than 80,mahela play far away from his body. prassana not batting well.the only way be in the sri lankan team if u are not do good. this why one good thinking man left the selection com..let aus is the last for most of them .

Posted by   on (December 1, 2012, 13:07 GMT)

Apologies if it seemed like I was asserting that Sangakkara and Samaraweera cannot play pace and swing - but if you read carefully, that is not what is being said here. I have simply said that they have not played pace and swing well in this series, which I think even they will admit.

Sri Lanka's batting unit as a whole however, don't play pace and seam well. I have said repeatedly in previous pieces that Samaraweera is probably the best player of the moving ball in the Sri Lanka side.

Posted by Baduruwan on (December 1, 2012, 6:03 GMT)

Sri Lanka's batting woes will continue until their selectors understand that Chandimal is the real talent. He made two half centuries on his debut against South Africans at Durban but still selectors do not have faith in him. Some times something else may be wrong with him. May be they don't like him because of his poor back ground or may be he is also a Southerner like J'suriya ? But every SL selector must understand that he is miles ahead of Kaushal Silva or Prasanna Jayawardene in batting and his keeping is also not bad. If Sri Lanka want to at least draw a test match in Australia they should give a permanent place to Chandimal instead of consistently poor performing Paras or Prasanna. You can not win test matches in Australia with club cricketers.

Posted by Sinhaya on (December 1, 2012, 2:47 GMT)

Andrew Fernando, you must also say that this same NZ side sans Vettori managed to beat Australia in a test match this time last year in Australia and that Aussies last lost a test match to no one but this NZ side. You also forgot to say how we handled swing bowling in Southampton last year where Sanga scored a ton and helped us draw the match. Yes we must improve against seam bowling but you have to expect Sanga and Dilshan to get back into form as well as they have 2 weeks to go before the Hobart test and they can freshen up.

Posted by   on (December 1, 2012, 1:34 GMT)

i have no idea ,,why srilanka cricket board why they keep selecting paranavitharana,,,useless selection,,,again he selected for australia tour,,,,they cud have give second chance to dimuth,,

Posted by KingOwl on (November 30, 2012, 19:25 GMT)

Firstly, I think it is not batting that is the problem. It is the bowling - specifically, fast bowling. I would have liked to see the NZ top order playing against Southee and Boult. I think things wouldn't have been too different from the SL top order. Secondly, I think the idea that people like Sangakkara and Samaraweera cannot play pace and bounce is ridiculous. The article cites the South African tour. Well, why don't you look at some of the big innings Samaraweera got in SA (not just in Durban, but even at Cape Town). Re. Sanga: He has made so many big innings all over the world - to me, the idea of having to defend his batting skills is a joke. Sorry Andrew, but I think the analysis is overly simplistic.

Posted by St.John on (November 30, 2012, 17:57 GMT)

Its pretty much hurts to suggest that Samaraweera failed. Paranavitane, Sangakarra, Dilshan and Mahela J failed against swing and bounce but why include poor Samaraweera who is proving to be a Dravid - like wall? Paranavitane especially is clueless against the moving ball.

Posted by tallgrass on (November 30, 2012, 16:51 GMT)

The problem is mental application and strategy. Not skill level. There is no proper test cricket strategy. Take the case of Eranga for example. If they wanted him ready for NZ and Aus tours he should have been on the A team tour of South Africa last June - instead they took Kosala Kulasekara!

Posted by Roshini on (November 30, 2012, 16:16 GMT)

This is the most public can expect from a rank 6 test team. Being a good outfit on the shorter format does not make them any better when test skills are challenged. A very ordinary display of test cricket series after series. Australian public should be aware of this and plan out a trip elsewhere on the forth and fifth day.

Posted by Ruban_Varathan on (November 30, 2012, 15:03 GMT)

As a SL fan a kiind request to SL selectors...Dont persist with paranavithana in Test cricket,he is a proven failure and he is struggling to make even half century(even in Home condition).Wicket in the First ball of SL 2nd innings put pressure on the remaining batsmen.....Lots of talent(Chandimal & karunaratne) are being wasted.....Its been irking to see SL going down to make series 1-1 against Kiwis....Gd Luck SL...Aussies are waiting for u to ur potential and God will do the rest!!

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