The cricket adoring public was buoyed by the T20 series win against India and it can be considered as a confidence booster for the young Lankan Lions led by their captain Dasun Shanaka. Despite winning the series against India on home soil it remained to be seen whether they will maintain the consistency against South [...]


When will the Lions learn?

Review on South Africa Tour of Sri Lanka 2021

The T20 series win against India was overshadowed after few weeks

The cricket adoring public was buoyed by the T20 series win against India and it can be considered as a confidence booster for the young Lankan Lions led by their captain Dasun Shanaka. Despite winning the series against India on home soil it remained to be seen whether they will maintain the consistency against South Africa who arrived in the island for the tour comprised of three ODIs and three T20 internationals.

Leading in to the series, Sri Lanka Cricket organised the Invitational T20 League to select the squad for the T20 World Cup and the limited overs tour against South Africa. Most of the players in the national team were involved in the competition.

During the tournament Sri Lanka captain Shanaka had an outstanding tournament scoring 258 runs at an average of 63.50. Kamindu Mendis, the ambidextrous spin-bowling all-rounder, showed glimpses of his talent with the bat scoring 193 runs at an average of 96.50.

Former captain Dinesh Chandimal also found some rhythm with consistent performances that enabled him to make his comeback into the white-ball set up after being overlooked for the tours of Bangladesh and England. He was also omitted for the home series against India.

The outcome of this series was crucial for both teams as they hunted for World Cup Super League points with the hope of obtaining direct qualification for the 2023 World Cup. Both teams hadn’t won an ODI series in 18 months leading into this series.

In the pre-series press conference the Sri Lankan skipper pinned hopes on his young spin trio that included Wanindu Hasaranga, Akila Dananjaya and youngster Praveen Jayawickrama to challenge a relatively inexperienced South African batting lineup who were without their two senior batsmen Quinton De Kock and David Miller, who was rested for the ODI series.

The pitches that were used for the first two ODIs didn’t have much assistance for the spinners and Sri Lanka’s instinctive opener Avishka Fernando was able to score runs without any pressure including a well-deserved century to propel the hosts to 300. They eventually kept the South African batsmen on the toes winning the first game by 14 runs.

Despite the much needed victory in the first ODI, it is fair to say that the Sri Lankan batsman had a challenging time during the ODI series as none of the batsmen were able to do anything significant during the ODIs.

The worrying factor is the inability to play against spin. Sri Lanka lost 76% of their wickets to spin during the series. The conventional sweep can be considered as a ploy that can be used to counter the spinners. But unfortunately they hardly used the sweep against spinners and they seemed to have misread the pitches in the last two ODIs. As a result the batting performances were below par as they registered poor scores of 197 and 203 respectively.

Tabraiz Shamsi was the chief destroyer for the South Africa grabbing eight wickets.

One of the major concerns that emerged for the Lankans during this series was the role of their captain Shanaka, who was unable to replicate the heroics that he delivered during the domestic tournament. During the series he aggregated a mere 49 runs at an average of 16.33 and he was reluctant to bowl. He bowled only five overs that cost 35 runs and he was unable to take wickets during the ODIs.

Meanwhile Dhananjaya de Silva had a disappointing series as his captain. He also didn’t live up to the expectations. He was unsettled by the South African spinners as a senior batsman in the team.

It is fair to say that the bowlers toiled hard throughout the series but yet again they were badly let down. However they can be satisfied to a certain extent as they were able to create history when they defended a modest score of 203 in the series decider. Dushmantha Chameera bowled exceptionally well to unsettle the South African batsmen and then young Maheesh Theekshana, who was on debut, ripped through the South African batting lineup and sealed a historic series-win against South Africa after eight years.

A few days later the focus shifted on to the T20 series which was an important one as both teams were in preparation for the T20 World Cup scheduled to commence next month. Leading into the series, the Lankans were beaming with confidence following the ODI series win (2-1).

The tourist’s chances were boosted by the timely return of Quinton De Kock and David Miller and for the hosts it was Kusal Janith Perera who made his comeback after missing out the series against India due to a shoulder injury.

The series was a dress rehearsal for both teams to work on the areas that they needed to improve ahead of the showpiece event that will be held in UAE and Oman.

The confidence and the energy that they gained during the ODI series seemed to be diminishing at a fast rate as wickets continued to fall in clusters for the Sri Lankans. In hindsight the Lankan batsmen should have observed how Quinton De Kock single-handedly dominated the proceedings in the T20 series as South Africa won the T20 series (3-0)

Charith Asalanka, who was the shining light for the hosts during the 50-over series, failed to adapt his game according to the format. After having faith in the 24-year-old youngster for two matches, he was sidelined for the third game and Kamindu Mendis came in as a replacement, but did nothing significant.

Dinesh Chandimal’s most invaluable contribution in the series was during the first T20I. Even though unsettled at the start of his innings he went on to score an unbeaten 66 to add some responsibility. After failing to score in the second T20I he was also sidelined.

Contrasting to the ODI series the bowlers lacked intensity during the T20 series and failed to do anything significant in the series.

There were high expectations on Wanindu Hasaranga. It is fair to say that the youngster had a bittersweet series as an all-rounder. His effectiveness with the bat has diminished significantly ever since the England tour, but he continues to deliver the goods with the ball. On the other hand Chamika Karunarathne can be considered as a power-hitter for any season. Those are the areas the selectors need to have a closer look.

Aamer Sohail, the former Pakistan batsmen turned commentator, who witnessed the action from close quarters, believes that Sri Lankans lacked game awareness and the players didn’t seem to understand their role in team. The glamour of the ODI series win has faded away and it’s fair to say that South Africa have taught us a harsh lesson ahead of the T20 World Cup. But it remains to be seen whether they will learn from their mistakes.

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