Sri Lanka v South Africa, 2nd Test, Colombo July 23, 2014

Sri Lanka arrive at flat SSC with roles reversed


Sri Lanka like to begin Test series in Galle because they feel they can win there. In the past they have arrived at the SSC on a 1-0 cushion, and been happy to see a flat deck on which they can suck the life out of the series, and demoralise the opposition attack.

In the past few years, however, there has been a shift. Sri Lanka no longer have a bowler who dominates visiting batsmen from the first day of a series until its final session. In the post-Muttiah Muralitharan era, Sri Lanka have taken four 1-0 leads in Galle, and blown that lead three times, losing matches in Colombo. The P Sara Oval has been their least favoured venue, but as Sri Lanka arrive in the big city needing to win to level the series, Angelo Mathews knows the SSC could become a site of disappointment against South Africa as well.

"It is usually a flat wicket here," Mathews said. "It does a little bit in the morning session and then turns out to be a batting paradise. I hope it will be different. But whatever pitch we play on we've got to find ways to beat them. The wicket and the toss won't make a massive difference."

The task of taking 20 South Africa wickets has been made tougher by the injury to Shaminda Eranga, but Mathews suggested that while changes in personnel were likely, Sri Lanka will continue to play seven batsmen in their XI.

"I would like to go 7-4 on any wicket," he said. "The batters need to score runs to give the bowlers a chance. We haven't done that properly in the last few games. It's just that we have to be a bit more cautious. There will be phases in the game when the South Africa bowlers will be steaming in, and they will be reverse-swinging the ball. Those little phases we've got to win. They won most of those situations in the last Test."

Among the drawbacks of playing seven batsmen, is occasionally finding yourself a bowler short, as Sri Lanka did in Galle, when Eranga was rendered unfit to bowl after the first day. Mathews is the only reliable bowling option in the top seven, but he bowls only sporadically in Tests. He delivered 11 overs in Sri Lanka's first innings, but did not bowl at all in the second.

"I am trying to manage my bowling because I am still struggling with my knee," Mathews said. "There's a little bit of a niggle, especially in Test matches."

Mathews may also re-evaluate his place in the batting order, particularly after a spot opens up in the top five. He has averaged 81.69 since becoming captain, but has been hampered by middle-order collapses that have often left him having to bat with the tail.

"Going up the order is an option. Especially after the Pakistan series I might bat higher up, because Mahela Jayawardene is also retiring. Regardless of being the captain you are still a player in the team. You need to contribute with either bat or ball. I am just trying to keep it simple and score runs when I go to bat and pick up a few wickets when I bowl."

Sri Lanka have not launched criticism at South Africa after Vernon Philander was caught tampering the ball in Galle, and Mathews again batted away suggestions that South Africa's victory had been founded on reverse swing, achieved unfairly.

"To be honest we didn't play good cricket. That is the only reason for our loss in Galle. South Africa did reverse swing the ball, but our batsmen have faced reverse-swinging balls before, especially against Pakistan. We are used to that. It's not at all an excuse for our defeat. We will go all out to try and win this Test. If we lose 2-0 it doesn't matter, as long as we play well."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Steven on July 24, 2014, 2:52 GMT

    Mathews should bat higher up the order he says there's one spot up for grabs I thinhpk there is to spots up for grabs obviously mahelas retirement but also thirimannes his form is poor his stats are poor what's he stilling doing in the team if you drop chandimal it looks like double standards if you don't drop thirimanne as well what message does that send chandimal Mathews should bat at four he's good enough to do Mahela to finish off at five or six against the older ball I reckon and by the time the new ball is due he should be on 50 odd and should be easier for him to deal with the new ball by then

  • Terrance on July 24, 2014, 0:19 GMT

    If someone can clearly tell me what is happening to guys like Rumesh Buddika, Angelo Perera . Jehan Mubarak, Udaya Jayasundara These guys performed well in the Premier tournament and were named in the preliminary squad to Ireland and England. but they have not been given any opportunity. Jehan Mubarak scored 8 centuries in the league and Angelo has been spoken about to break into the Sri lankan team for sometime now. Angelo did get 1 our 2 outing in T20 but came into bat with couple of overs left. they are not in the England /Ireland tour, not in the Asian games squad etc...

  • Dummy4 on July 23, 2014, 16:13 GMT

    @Sinhnaya, Vithanage has played only against Bangladesh. As usual you are missing the point. I am not saying he should/should not play. If he plays he has a point to prove.

  • Prashan on July 23, 2014, 15:43 GMT

    @siddhartha87 yes I agree with you. But problem is our selectors are making blunders persisting with passengers like Thirimanne, Chandimal and Mahela making our batting lineup frail. Vithanage is the best batsman of ours as his batting average in 4 tests is 69 but sadly our selectors are ignoring him. So yes we deserved to lose in Galle.

  • Dummy4 on July 23, 2014, 15:34 GMT

    I am tired of hearing Angelo's statements starting with "We". As a captain and as a nice person he may be doing that. "We didn't play good cricket", "The batters need to score runs to give bowlers a chance" etc. We all know these phrases do not apply to him nor to Sanga and to lesser extent to Kaushal and Upul Tharanga. The biggest passenger is the "vice captain". I am sure he is licking his lips awaiting a flat track to score some runs and announce that he has returned to form. He is not test class. Simply drop him. I do not know much about Niroshan Dickwella. The good thing about his selection is that he is of unknown quality. SA have not seen him playing. Therefore they do not have much information to make plans for him.

  • rock on July 23, 2014, 15:13 GMT

    If thirimanne didn't drop for the 2nd match Sri Lanka is more likely to loose

  • Dummy on July 23, 2014, 14:32 GMT

    Surprisingly s.Africans have dominated this tour. Look at the hundreds they scored 6 so far and not even a single for the Lankans. And were allout only once and hosts were allout in all 5 innings and srilanka could not reach 300 runs even once and S.Africans did reach 3 times

  • bobby on July 23, 2014, 14:30 GMT

    Thirimanne is not contributing any runs...he needs to be dropped. He should be dropped before chandimal..bad luck guy...thiri just know to show he is head strong and just know how to chew chewing gum.

  • siddhartha on July 23, 2014, 14:22 GMT

    Apart from Silva,Sanga and Matthews no is world class in Sri Lankan team

  • Mohamed Afulal on July 23, 2014, 14:17 GMT

    Angelo is right. It's the batsmen who have to perform especially in the first inning. A good total enable bowlers to play their part.

    Hope Srilanka will play well and win the test.

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