ONE: The Sun smiled and the batsmen obliged at Chester-le Street … 31 May 2016
At the end of Day 3, in the second Test being played at Chester-le-Street, in Durham, the Sri Lankan batsmen, being sent for a follow-on, had so far made 310 for 5 at a pleasing 3.67 runs/over. For a team that had, during this series totaled a miserable 311 in 3 completed innings – or 30 wickets – this is indeed a remarkable turnaround.
The icing on the cake, after fighting half-centuries by Kaushal Silva (60) and skipper Angelo Mathews (80), is the unbroken 87-run partnership between Dinesh Chandimal (54*) and Milinda Siriwardena (35*). Currently, the tourists need to add another 88 runs to make England bat again. Maybe their skipper Cook, who has added a mere 36 runs in his last three Test innings, has an opportunity to complete 10,000 Test runs by scoring only 5 runs more.
Still, only a supreme optimist can expect Sri Lanka to level the series from this position. However, the Sri Lankan batsmen should have opened the eyes of those responsible for organizing overseas tours at Sri Lanka Cricket that glorious sunshine during the day – and subsequently a pitch that behaved accordingly – played a significant role after the gloomy weather experienced so far in this series. Most may have expected the Test to be completed, as at Leeds, on Day 3. Now the game goes on to Day 4.
Of course, the last specialist batsmen are at the crease now with a long batting tail to follow. All Sri Lankan supporters hope that the late-order batsmen after watching the heroics of the specialists will step into the breach and ensure England returns to the crease.
TWO: End of a Controversial Tour On and Off the Field … 14 June 2016
Considered the most controversial Ashes series of all-time when ‘Bodyline’ bowling reared its ugly head in the 1932-33 season, that series came to a close when as Bradman (at whom this type of bowling was targeted to restrict his scoring prowess) quoted in his autobiography:”It was a relief to all concerned when, with a dramatic off-drive right over the Sydney Cricket Ground fence for six, Hammond brought the series to an end.”
83 years later, in what could easily be considered the most controversial 3-Test series, so far, in England by Sri Lanka, came to an end when 21-year old Kusal Mendis struck off-spinner Root over mid-wicket for a six to bring this series to an end. As in the 1932-33 Ashes series here too it was a relief to all concerned.
There has to be a level-playing field for the respective competitors to display their skills and to be judged on an equal footing. In this regard the Sri Lankans suffered unfairly by being subjected, firstly, not only to an itinerary in the early part of the summer but also was not given a proper opportunity to acclimatize to the prevalent conditions either. As Dinesh Chandimal once commented that when he went to have a ‘net’ at Durham he could barely hold the bat since the cold was so intense. No wonder even the second-division county teams the tourists had to play against made commendable totals against Sri Lanka. However was a gap of 8 days without a game between the First and Second Tests. Since the First Test was over in three days the tourists had to content with 10 free days. Then there was a 12-day break between the Second and the Third Test. Why or how such an itinerary was accepted by the mandarins at our end is another matter.
Injuries to our key pacemen bowling in the intense cold did not help either. Spearhead of the pace attack, Dhammika Prasad, who not only ended England’s hopes at Headingley two years earlier, and continued in that vein until now was injured and did not appear in a Test on tour. Another promising paceman Dushmantha Chameera who had a dream debut against England, at Leeds, capturing the first three wickets of the England batting line-up: Compton (0), Root (0) and Cook (16) at Durham, was another casualty in the injury list. Finally a third paceman Shaminda Eranga was bowling under a cloud with a suspect action. Sri Lankan Man of the series opener Kaushal Silva, centurion Dinesh Chandimal, ubiquitous left-armer Herath and paceman Nuwan Pradeed featured prominently while batsman Kusal Mendis is a player to watch in the future.
At times tatty fielding was another issue that affected the Sri Lankans, the cold being possibly a factor. Judging by the manner when even the spectators were cozily wrapped up from head downwards gives an indication how much the cold must have been even to the natives. However when on certain days the sun did make an appearance the Sri Lankans did make a better fist of the situation. Umpiring decisions, though bona-fide of course, did not help the cause of the tourists, worst being the no-ball call by Rod Tucker when Nuwan Pradeep bowled Bairstowe who then when went to add over a further 100+ runs. In short even the rub of the green went against Sri Lanka. An lbw decision against Cook, off Herath, was not reviewed, when replays suggested that Cook would have been ruled out. Hence there was an ironic situation when both batsmen who were at the crease simultaneously, enjoying a ‘second’ innings! Flashing a Sri Lankan flag, in protest or otherwise, was another issue that added to the cauldron of controversies during the tour along with the fact of how/why many officials were taken on tour is questionable.
Finally, the Sri |Lankan (batting) tail is a very sore point. In the first innings – when it matters most – the last five wickets in all 3 Tests, added a mere 36 runs after 15 visits to the crease! Hence it appears the opposition need only to capture 5 of the top Sri Lankan wickets to call it a day since the balance is cannon fodder! This adds a further burden to the middle-order batsman who may be hoping to make a fight-back but with a fragile tail he will naturally be disconsolate and throw his wicket by taking risks. Two incidents spring to mind when such situations arose to Chandimal after he had passed a century and for Kusal Perera at Lord’s. It is time the tail-enders made to realize that they are not only meant to bowl but at least to hold a straight bat as well and defend their wickets.
All Sri Lankan supporters now expect what with, hopefully, the weather becoming kinder, the Sri Lankans will fare better in the shorter version of the game.