The Black Caps played Montessori teachers to the Sri Lankan ‘students’ at the P.Sara stadium when they clinically trounced Sri Lanka, by an innings and 65 runs in the second Test, and retrieved the 60 points they yielded in the first Test at Galle. Where are our coaches? Since 2011 there have been so many [...]


A worthy lesson from the friendly foes


New Zealand players celebrate

The Black Caps played Montessori teachers to the Sri Lankan ‘students’ at the P.Sara stadium when they clinically trounced Sri Lanka, by an innings and 65 runs in the second Test, and retrieved the 60 points they yielded in the first Test at Galle. Where are our coaches? Since 2011 there have been so many coaches, and the current coach is also having a sword of Damocles hanging over his head. Obviously administrators are wielding the big stick and as a result Sri Lanka cricket is at the butt end.

Firstly, tribute must be paid to the ground-staff at Galle and at the Oval for covering the entire playing area so that play was possible no sooner the rain eased. This practice should be emulated by other Full Members of the ICC as well. During the recently concluded Cricket World Cup so much of play was lost due to minimal covering of the playing areas.

Sri Lanka skipper Dimuth Karunaratne was the highest run maker in the series with an aggregate of 247 runs including an innings of 122 runs (243 balls) and was chiefly responsible for the victory in the first Test at Galle. The 161-run first wicket partnership with Lahiru Thirimanna (64) being the anchor winning trump. Of course off-spinner Akila Dananjaya snapped up the first five New Zealand scalps ending with 5/80 while paceman Suranga Lakmal hastened the tourists’ end with 4/29.

Sadly of course, Akila’s action was again questioned by the umpires and the Selectors prudently kept him out of the second Test, at the P.Sara stadium. Sri Lanka’s fate did not end there, in the second innings, skipper Karunaratne was not allowed to bat until No.7 in the batting order since an injury to his leg prevented him from taking the field on Day 4.  Wicket-keeper Dickwella too injured a finger while keeping wickets but doggedly kept his wicket while batting intact facing 161 balls for 51 runs, though in the end – with wickets falling all around him – that was not sufficient to prevent the Black Caps winning comfortably– and squaring the series as well.

The Two Captains holding the trophy of the drawn Test series, a silverware that could have easily been won by the hosts, not for their amateur style of playing

Another question that arises in the minds of most observers is the conundrum concerning Dananjaya de Silva’s role in the team. With his track record as a top-order batsman, why send him in now at No.6? In the second Test, coming into bat when the score was 130/6, he took the New Zealand attack by the scruff of their necks and slammed a quick-fire 109 including 16 boundaries and 2 sixes. Indeed this innings is on record as the highest number of runs scored in boundaries and sixes in this series. Are the Selectors contemplating using him as a bowling all-rounder? In fact he scalped the most number of catches – 6 in the 3 innings by a player in this series.

Towards the end, skipper Karunaratne was highly critical of the batting of his team-mates:

“When I say players should be free, I don’t mean that you just hit every ball that you see. It’s about keeping your mind free. If you at any time feel like you should play the reverse-sweep but you stop yourself, you’re restricting yourself. There are times when you can get runs from that shot, when it’s a safe option. It’s about being relaxed. Freedom doesn’t mean swinging at every ball. It’s about playing with confidence. At times I felt our players really lacked patience. A Test is a very valuable thing, and batsmen should know how to play according to the situation. They should know how to handle that freedom.”

These words are crucial, especially to Kusal Janith Perera (who collected a ‘pair’ in the game) and should hang these words carefully written by his bedside. There is hardly any point when he reaches a milestone to look to the sky. Test matches cannot always be won – as he did in Durban – by tearing into the opposition bowlers. Sometimes a Test match can be saved too by batting judiciously. That opportunity was available in Colombo to all Sri Lankan batsmen especially in the second innings. Judiciously does not mean stonewalling all the while. Taking singles, rotating the strike and keeping the scoreboard ticking is important – as the Black Caps showed in their batsmanship. Experienced batsmen such as Angelo Mathews now seemed a shade of his former self contributing a mere 9 runs in 59 balls and dropping a crucial catch in the slips as well

On Day 4, stand-in captain Mathews did not appear to be assertive enough and was not presenting the New Zealand batsmen with any problems. For instance, with a new ball at the ready why wasn’t Suranga Lakmal given more of the bowling whilst spinner Embuldeniya had to bear the brunt and the tourists smashed 186 for the loss of a wicket and that was that!

With rain affecting all five days of the game in Colombo, Tom Latham 154 (Player of the Match) and wicketkeeper Watling 105* (Player of the series) along with a whirlwind innings of 83 (77 balls, 5 sixes and 5 fours) by Colin Grandhomme kept the game out of the possibility of a Sri Lankan win. The total of 431/6 declared scored at the rate of 3.74/over was beyond the hosts. All this mayhem was despite their batsmen Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson jointly contributing a mere 43 runs. That is team-work.

Eventually it was a game of back to the wall for the hosts if they were to save the game when originally 48 overs were available. However when the final session began Sri Lanka still needed to bat out 36 overs and this was after the first 5 Sri Lankan were swept off by the New Zealand bowlers for 32 runs. What a start that was. Opener, Thirimanna was run out in the fifth ball off the first over (was Sri Lanka in a run-chase?) and the first 5 wickets went down like nine-pins. Though Dickwell did keep the tourists waiting for some time, both pacemen Tim Southee and Trent Boult reached 250 wickets apiece and sealed victory amidst fading light.

The recent Ashes win by England was an amazing victory with Stokes repeating a Botham as the latter did in 1981! England’s first innings score of 67 at Leeds was their lowest in 71 years. In 1948 however they were bundled out for 52 runs at the Oval but Australia went on to win by an innings and 149 runs. The chief wrecker was Ray Lindwall 6/20 and England’s Len Hutton (30) was the only English batsmen to reach double figures.

Most importantly this was the Test that Bradman in his last Test innings was dismissed for a duck (bowled Eric Hollies 0), and his average went down to 99.94. If he had scored a mere 4 runs his batting average could have reached 100.0! Batting at the other end was Arthur Morris who was top-scorer with 196 run out.

Here are the comments Morris made after he saw the next day’s newspapers. “The Don was given a standing ovation all the way by the spectators, then when he reached the crease, England skipper Norman Yardley called for three cheers, then he was bowled second ball by leg-spinner Eric Hollies. Yet again the spectators gave him a standing ovation all the way back to the pavilion, but there was hardly a word about my innings of nearly a double century. That is how The Don was revered.”

Bowler Eric Hollies had this to say: “I bowled the best ball of my career to bowl the greatest batsman of the world for nought and he earns the plaudits. This is hardly cricket”, he said tongue in cheek!

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