Chris Silverwood: Sri Lanka need to get better at sweeping

Coach supported an attacking approach with the bat but said technique was a problem

Kusal Mendis sweeps along the ground, but the shot did not often work well  •  Getty Images

Kusal Mendis sweeps along the ground, but the shot did not often work well  •  Getty Images

Sri Lanka crashed and burned in the second innings, nosediving to 113 all out in 22.5 overs. Four of their top seven fell attempting sweeps or reverse sweeps. And of that top seven, only Dhananjaya de Silva was out not playing an attacking stroke - he left a ball that would have hit leg stump.
Still, it wasn't Sri Lanka's approach that paved their way to such a swift and comprehensive defeat, it was their execution, according to coach Chris Silverwood.
"I enjoyed the batters' intent," he said. "They were positive. They looked to score runs. If we'd gone out there and looked to block it, I don't think that would have worked. I want us to be positive. There was no point just trying to block it today. On wickets like that, with people around the bat, the pressure is on, so you have to look to score. We had to look to try and get past the Australian score and make them bat again. It's not always going to work. "
Silverwood had been England's coach when they beat Sri Lanka 2-0 in Galle in 2021. He used the example of Joe Root, who had made 228 and 186 in that series, to underscore how vital sweeping the ball is in these conditions.
"We've just got to be better at playing the sweep, to be honest. We saw the Australians use the sweep to great effect. When I was here with England, we saw Joe Root and Jos Buttler use the sweep to great effect. Root gave an exhibition on how to play on spinning wickets, which led to the best season of his career."
"If we're going to play on turning wickets, it's something we're going to need to be able to do. There are other things we could do - use the depth of the crease, and use your feet to get to the pitch of the ball. But the sweep is something that when you're playing on turning wickets you have to do. It's a productive shot.
"In the preparation leading up to the series in which I was in the England camp, we ensured that the guys swept well, got to the pitch of the ball, and used the depth of the crease. It's a very simple game plan. If they were sweeping and then got out, they were happy with that, because when you go to sweep you mean to hit the ball. You've got to have the confidence to do that."
Sri Lanka's best bowler in that England series last year had been left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya, who took 15 wickets at an average of 27.66. But in this match, Embuldeniya was a shadow of the bowler seen in that series, going at 4.86 runs an over across his 15 wicketless overs. He had also been modest in his sole outing in Bangladesh, in May.
"He's finding it tough at the moment," Silverwood said of Embuldeniya. "He's getting a lot of support in the dressing room because he's a great lad. If you look at the data that gets thrown back, you've got Nathan Lyon operating between 4.5 and 4.4 metres [distance from where the ball pitches to the stumps], and Embuldeniya was a good foot-and-a-half fuller than that on the first day, which made life easier for the Australian batsman. We've got to work on him holding a consistent length.
"It's not just him not holding a consistent length. As a group we need to do that better. You look at the various pace the bowlers bowl at as well. There's a few factors there, one of which is confidence. We've got to give him support and get him back to where we know he can be. He's trying hard. It's just not happening for him at the moment."

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