Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 1st Test, Galle, 1st day August 6, 2014

Sri Lanka's day-long deja vu

Once again this year, despite having the opposition under the cosh, Sri Lanka's attack allowed a position of strength to slip away from them
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Stranded on a far-off island where one day's routine was hardly different from the next, Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe put a cross in the ground and began to make a daily notch, hoping to wrap his mind around the passage of time.

Weeks wound by without change. Months melded into one another. When Crusoe was rescued, he learned that even with his wooden cross, he had not managed to accurately count the days he had spent cut off from civilisation.

On another island, also teeming with palm trees, but with fewer vindictive cannibals, the Sri Lanka attack had another day that seemed just like so many others they have recently endured. Younis Khan was their quick-footed tormentor this time, as he has been on many other occasions. By biding his time, and choosing his moments wisely, he moved to within 60 runs of scoring an unprecedented 2000 Test runs against Sri Lanka.

Patience is the Sri Lanka unit's style, though really, they have arrived at that method by process of elimination. There were hopes Ajantha Mendis would become the sharp end of the attack following Muttiah Muralitharan's retirement. Once opponents unraveled his secrets, what once appeared to be magic now seems like common trickery.

Attacking quicks like Dilhara Fernando did not prove effective enough to be retained. Even aggressive spinners like Suraj Randiv were tried for a while and then cut off, at least for now. The men that remained were those that were willing to run in and tirelessly repeat the same, well-rehearsed routine, just like castaways stuck in a Groundhog Day of toilsome survival.

In the past two series, Sri Lanka had long outings in the field in every match they have played. Bowling first at Lord's they had three down for 74, then four for 120, but ended up conceding 575 for 9. At Headingley, England were five down in 26.2 overs in the second innings, but it would take 90.3 more overs for Sri Lanka to eke out those final five wickets, on a turning fifth-day pitch.

At the SSC, South Africa defied the hosts for 134.5 overs in the first innings, then 111 in the next. Rangana Herath has now completed 517 overs since December 31 of last year. Wednesday must have felt like a day-long déjà vu.

When South Africa had finished on 255 for 5 on another first day at Galle less than a month ago, bowling coach Chaminda Vaas had been upbeat about his attack's returns. Acting head coach Marvan Atapattu reasoned there was little more Sri Lanka could have done against Pakistan as well.

"The match situation has a lot to do with the wicket," Atapattu said. "It settled down, and that's the way it is in Galle. We played two fast bowlers and it doesn't do much after the first session. Slowing the run rate, and making it tough to score is what we can do when you get a wicket like this. If you can do that you can expect a poor shot, so that's our hope."

It is easy to sympathise with Atapattu and Sri Lanka, given the personnel available, but even on such tracks, opposition bowlers have found the means to be truly penetrative. Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel shared 16 wickets on a dry pitch to win that game for South Africa. Those two are nothing less than the best new-ball pair on the planet, but they did help illustrate how the X-factor can transcend conditions and transform a series.

Sri Lanka's wins this year have highlighted Shaminda Eranga and Suranga Lakmal's value, but beyond those two and Rangana Herath, Sri Lanka might do well to find bowlers who are a little more pizzazz and a little less working-class.

Test-quality pace bowlers are thin on the ground, especially when at least one of the two premier quicks has found a way to be unfit in every match since the fast men's demolition of Bangladesh in Dhaka, in January.

But there are options for Sri Lanka in the spin department. Twenty-one-year-old Tharindu Kaushal takes bagfuls with big-turning offspin almost every time he plays, and though he has been in two Test squads, the selectors are worried he does not yet have the control to squeeze opponents opposite Herath.

The time for a shake-up is approaching, however. In Muralitharan, and in Herath for a time, Sri Lanka had men that were at once workhorse and spearhead. But those are not roles that anyone but the supremely gifted can hold for long. Herath bowled two excellent balls to claim his wickets on day one, but if he is to have the workload that he has been saddled with this year, Sri Lanka cannot also expect him to be fresh enough to be a major wicket-taking threat as well.

South Africa had six fewer runs and had lost one more wicket than Pakistan at the end of their first day in Galle. In the end, they batted for most of the second day, hit 455 for 9, and seized control of that Test.

Sri Lanka require wickets while the ball is still new, and while there is still a little help from the pitch. Else, another long day when minutes drag and hours stretch may await them.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Udendra on August 7, 2014, 6:29 GMT

    Actually SLC will be much more keen on building a new stadium, than using proper DRS.

  • Sexysteven on August 7, 2014, 3:21 GMT

    Interesting to see what happens today still think if Sri Lanka break this partnership the Pakistani tail is weak and could wrap the tail up fast but if these two survive the 2nd newball and bat for awhile then they should get adecent total interesting game if weather stays ok

  • amir_nirvana on August 7, 2014, 2:07 GMT

    Andrew is quickly becoming one of my favourite writers. Good job. I am so looking forward to the contest between Pakistan's bowlers and Sri Lanka's batsmen.

  • nickexplore on August 7, 2014, 1:46 GMT

    Chandimal's caught off the shoulder at Galle vs SA, and Mahela's caught off the arm-guard at SSC vs SA, are two instances where Hotspot and/or Snicko would have offered conclusive proof whether any bat or glove was involved. Instead, we have the ridiculous situation of the third umpire, who can't see what has happened, handing it back to the on-field umpire who sticks with his original call. Marvin Atapattu is right asking SLC for Hotspot and Snicko for future matches, while the ICC needs to review its own flawed DRS.

  • MarcusPerera on August 7, 2014, 1:46 GMT

    this shows the value of Ajantha Mendis who has a bowling strike rate very close to Herath and who started his test carrier in 2008 herath in 1999

  • nickexplore on August 7, 2014, 0:59 GMT

    The decision by Mathews not to use the DRS, when he had Younis Khan plumb lbw when he was on 21, even though Mahela was saying he should, was the key moment in the match. Perhaps with so many unsuccessful reviews over the past month Mathews wanted to hold onto his last referral, but this was clearly the time to use it, and Younis is now on 133 not out and Pakistan well in control.

    Marvin Atapattu is right to ask SLC for Hotspot and Snicko, which should have been in be in place for all international cricket matches.

  • on August 6, 2014, 23:11 GMT

    Good article. Re Ajantha Mendis, in the previous Test, while he didn't rise to the occasion he was poorly handled by Mathews and should have had as many overs as Dilruwan. It probably cost Sri Lanka the Test and Series.

  • on August 6, 2014, 22:18 GMT

    If weather does not interrupt we may hv a result. Of lately trend of drawn test matches hv started.Some times even draw is a result as was witnessed in 3rd test between SA and SL

  • mzm149 on August 6, 2014, 19:33 GMT

    Whatever the result of this test is, I hope its anything but a draw. I am tired of watching the batsmen playing whole of last day and scoring at 1.5 runs per over to save the match.

  • on August 6, 2014, 19:15 GMT

    Nice to see younis khan bat but tell u what asad shafiq realy bat well too and is an example for others that u should learn to spend time on wicket runs will come hope PAKISTAN bowling will make us proud too as always

  • Udendra on August 7, 2014, 6:29 GMT

    Actually SLC will be much more keen on building a new stadium, than using proper DRS.

  • Sexysteven on August 7, 2014, 3:21 GMT

    Interesting to see what happens today still think if Sri Lanka break this partnership the Pakistani tail is weak and could wrap the tail up fast but if these two survive the 2nd newball and bat for awhile then they should get adecent total interesting game if weather stays ok

  • amir_nirvana on August 7, 2014, 2:07 GMT

    Andrew is quickly becoming one of my favourite writers. Good job. I am so looking forward to the contest between Pakistan's bowlers and Sri Lanka's batsmen.

  • nickexplore on August 7, 2014, 1:46 GMT

    Chandimal's caught off the shoulder at Galle vs SA, and Mahela's caught off the arm-guard at SSC vs SA, are two instances where Hotspot and/or Snicko would have offered conclusive proof whether any bat or glove was involved. Instead, we have the ridiculous situation of the third umpire, who can't see what has happened, handing it back to the on-field umpire who sticks with his original call. Marvin Atapattu is right asking SLC for Hotspot and Snicko for future matches, while the ICC needs to review its own flawed DRS.

  • MarcusPerera on August 7, 2014, 1:46 GMT

    this shows the value of Ajantha Mendis who has a bowling strike rate very close to Herath and who started his test carrier in 2008 herath in 1999

  • nickexplore on August 7, 2014, 0:59 GMT

    The decision by Mathews not to use the DRS, when he had Younis Khan plumb lbw when he was on 21, even though Mahela was saying he should, was the key moment in the match. Perhaps with so many unsuccessful reviews over the past month Mathews wanted to hold onto his last referral, but this was clearly the time to use it, and Younis is now on 133 not out and Pakistan well in control.

    Marvin Atapattu is right to ask SLC for Hotspot and Snicko, which should have been in be in place for all international cricket matches.

  • on August 6, 2014, 23:11 GMT

    Good article. Re Ajantha Mendis, in the previous Test, while he didn't rise to the occasion he was poorly handled by Mathews and should have had as many overs as Dilruwan. It probably cost Sri Lanka the Test and Series.

  • on August 6, 2014, 22:18 GMT

    If weather does not interrupt we may hv a result. Of lately trend of drawn test matches hv started.Some times even draw is a result as was witnessed in 3rd test between SA and SL

  • mzm149 on August 6, 2014, 19:33 GMT

    Whatever the result of this test is, I hope its anything but a draw. I am tired of watching the batsmen playing whole of last day and scoring at 1.5 runs per over to save the match.

  • on August 6, 2014, 19:15 GMT

    Nice to see younis khan bat but tell u what asad shafiq realy bat well too and is an example for others that u should learn to spend time on wicket runs will come hope PAKISTAN bowling will make us proud too as always

  • on August 6, 2014, 16:44 GMT

    oh yes, we can expect some tidy display from yk in addition to what he did today. he still has that fitness in him to take him further on, but what we have seen lately of him that he tires soon after completing the ton. lets hope he goes bigger now. asad shafiq has taken the "last" chance with both hands. he has now the strong competition from umar akmal. so, asad fails now, and umar will grab it, i think stronger this time!! sri lanka was a bit one sided affair this whole year, too much dependency on 3 people. these wickets, i am sure are made for long innings from mahela and sanga. i can bet!! mahela is going, so at least sl can afford to give him a good send-off. i think both these tests will end up in tame draws. very tame.

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  • on August 6, 2014, 16:44 GMT

    oh yes, we can expect some tidy display from yk in addition to what he did today. he still has that fitness in him to take him further on, but what we have seen lately of him that he tires soon after completing the ton. lets hope he goes bigger now. asad shafiq has taken the "last" chance with both hands. he has now the strong competition from umar akmal. so, asad fails now, and umar will grab it, i think stronger this time!! sri lanka was a bit one sided affair this whole year, too much dependency on 3 people. these wickets, i am sure are made for long innings from mahela and sanga. i can bet!! mahela is going, so at least sl can afford to give him a good send-off. i think both these tests will end up in tame draws. very tame.

  • on August 6, 2014, 19:15 GMT

    Nice to see younis khan bat but tell u what asad shafiq realy bat well too and is an example for others that u should learn to spend time on wicket runs will come hope PAKISTAN bowling will make us proud too as always

  • mzm149 on August 6, 2014, 19:33 GMT

    Whatever the result of this test is, I hope its anything but a draw. I am tired of watching the batsmen playing whole of last day and scoring at 1.5 runs per over to save the match.

  • on August 6, 2014, 22:18 GMT

    If weather does not interrupt we may hv a result. Of lately trend of drawn test matches hv started.Some times even draw is a result as was witnessed in 3rd test between SA and SL

  • on August 6, 2014, 23:11 GMT

    Good article. Re Ajantha Mendis, in the previous Test, while he didn't rise to the occasion he was poorly handled by Mathews and should have had as many overs as Dilruwan. It probably cost Sri Lanka the Test and Series.

  • nickexplore on August 7, 2014, 0:59 GMT

    The decision by Mathews not to use the DRS, when he had Younis Khan plumb lbw when he was on 21, even though Mahela was saying he should, was the key moment in the match. Perhaps with so many unsuccessful reviews over the past month Mathews wanted to hold onto his last referral, but this was clearly the time to use it, and Younis is now on 133 not out and Pakistan well in control.

    Marvin Atapattu is right to ask SLC for Hotspot and Snicko, which should have been in be in place for all international cricket matches.

  • MarcusPerera on August 7, 2014, 1:46 GMT

    this shows the value of Ajantha Mendis who has a bowling strike rate very close to Herath and who started his test carrier in 2008 herath in 1999

  • nickexplore on August 7, 2014, 1:46 GMT

    Chandimal's caught off the shoulder at Galle vs SA, and Mahela's caught off the arm-guard at SSC vs SA, are two instances where Hotspot and/or Snicko would have offered conclusive proof whether any bat or glove was involved. Instead, we have the ridiculous situation of the third umpire, who can't see what has happened, handing it back to the on-field umpire who sticks with his original call. Marvin Atapattu is right asking SLC for Hotspot and Snicko for future matches, while the ICC needs to review its own flawed DRS.

  • amir_nirvana on August 7, 2014, 2:07 GMT

    Andrew is quickly becoming one of my favourite writers. Good job. I am so looking forward to the contest between Pakistan's bowlers and Sri Lanka's batsmen.

  • Sexysteven on August 7, 2014, 3:21 GMT

    Interesting to see what happens today still think if Sri Lanka break this partnership the Pakistani tail is weak and could wrap the tail up fast but if these two survive the 2nd newball and bat for awhile then they should get adecent total interesting game if weather stays ok