Tougher assignments ahead
Sri Lanka and Bangladesh did finish their three five day matches in less than ten days of playing time and if anyone wants to call it a name they can surely put it down as a no-Test series because it was just not contested.
Let us not waste our time discussing what ails Bangladeshi cricket in the longer version of the game, but dwell on, what Sri Lanka gained during their limited exposure to the game during the playing available to them of the so-called three Test matches and how they could build upon it for the coming gruelling contests which are down on the cards.
|Both Muralitharan and Sangakkara took the maximum of the given opportunities and reached separate personal milestones. (Picture by Ranjith Perera)
Anyway it was a good comeback into the real world of cricket after their mention worthy exploits at the World Cup in the Caribbean’s in March-April and the unpardonable faux-pass in Abu Dhabi a few days later.
Returning to Test cricket at one juncture in their short history in big time cricket the Lankan lads were also branded as more competent ODI players rather than test cricketers. But I suppose it is all included in the book by the name of ‘The learning curve”. Here the catch point is how soon you get through that initial stuttering period and start to stand on your feet? That must be the biggest ‘test’ in Test cricket.
As a result of the matches which could be even described as the massacre of the innocents the Lankan cricket was given a double promotion in the ICC standings and are just below the propagators of game of cricket to the world – the English who are placed second while indomitable Australia still holds on to their ‘top slot’. On the other hand the Sri Lankan who is also an indomitable individual – Muttiah Muralitharan who is already a loner in the 900 point count in the bowling ranks joined another very exclusive club when he took the last Bangladesh wicket in the series to hold hands with his adversary and friend Shane Warne of Australia in the 700 wicket club in Test cricket.
Not to be outdone Kumar Sangakkara the Lankan champion batsman at present also joined the 900 club – but in batting and become the first Sri Lanka batsman to do so in our short history of the game. Besides on his way his moving up the ladder it was encouraging to see his concentration and sheer determination when at the crease. After one rash stroke he had cut short his stay the crease in the first Test match his face had a sign printed “I’ll never let that happen again”. This was one of the most encouraging features that I have seen in my long love with the game which runs for well over three decades. Right at the top of the innings Michael Van Dort came good with the batting and his relaxed style of batting gave an indication that he could come good with any bowling attack in the days ahead.
At slot number four skipper Mahela Jayawardena hammered two centuries and averaged 113.66 and spoke the same batting language as Kumar Sangakkara and was very articulate with a sharper cutting edge where aggression is concerned. Also the support he yielded from his bowlers (and the opposing batsmen) made his life easy out there in spite of Bangladesh showing a glimpse of resistance in the second innings of the first and second Tests.
Besides Van Dort, the other most improved performance came from stumper Prasanna Jayawardena. Not only has he developed his on field composure, he also finished the series with a hundred against his name along with eight catches and three stumpings.
|The re-developed media centre at the P. Saravanamuttu Stadium---Another little discovery worth mentioning is that suddenly it has dawned upon the cricket hierarchy that the media is also an integral part of the ‘big picture’ in the game’s development.
The other two middle order batsmen Chamara Silva and Tillekeratne Dilshan did not perform to their potential. This may have been due to the fact that the top three performed consistently which also included a noteworthy contribution by young Malinda Warnapura in his second attempt at the crease after a first ball ‘duck’ in his unveiling ceremony. At the same time one must not forget to mention about the much awaited ‘ton’ by Chaminda Vaas who always had shown that he had more than a little batsmanship in him.
In the bowling department the entire bunch ‘hardly’ put a foot wrong. The early birds always caught their worm while Muralitharan came in at the latter stages with his polishing act.
Besides the work horses Vaas and Malinga, Dilhara Fernando came up with sustained spell which earned him eight wickets while left armer Sujeewa Silva also proved that he could fit into a slot if he is given the chance.
Opener Upul Tharanga and allrounder Farveez Maharoof played a game each but, did not come good, but, their present track record is good enough to carry them forward.
Another little discovery worth mentioning is that it suddenly it has dawned upon the cricket hierarchy that the media is also an integral part of the ‘big picture’ in the game’s development. What happened at the P. Saravanamuttu Stadium was bad. However how they came up with the remedial act of getting a state-of-the-art new media centre prior to their very next assignment at the venue is worth mentioning.
By and large it was a good exercise that Sri Lanka played a series of this nature prior their tougher engagements against Australia and England which are sandwiched between ODI matches once again between the two very opponents. Now they can translate all these positive signs into actual performances in the real Tests ahead.