The Sunday Leader

Lack Of A Third Test A Travesty Of Justice

By Richard Browne

Jayawardena and Strauss sharing the trophy

The only thing missing from an absorbing Test series between Sri Lanka and England is a deciding third Test. It is nothing short of a travesty that after nine days of Test cricket at its rawest, the teams and huge following of travelling fans are left with unfinished business. The series was set up perfectly, England coming back, but Sri Lanka far from being down and out – it would have been anyone’s game. The players are now already dotted around the world, India, England and South Africa, even the Maldives where Tim Bresnan was going to get married straight after the series finished. Such is the modern way and already with a topsy turvy Test in Barbados and the drama of the IPL kicking in, this sticky series already seems part of history.
Sri Lanka will be the more disappointed of the two teams. After the superb win of Galle and winning the toss in Colombo, they were set to do it from the Lankan textbook: big runs in the first innings, then oodles of pressure from the spinners with men crammed round the bat.
Instead Jimmy Anderson produced something special to have the Lankans three down and from there they were always chasing the match. Anderson was superb throughout the series. His stamina and skill shone and are a benchmark for the struggling Sri Lankan seam attack.
Anderson now has complete control of his craft from his seemingly ungaily head down action. His spell on the fourth evening after an exhausting day in the field was worthy of any comparison. Naturally to the left-handers, Anderson would hoop the ball in. So good is he now that his stock ball is the away swinger to the left hander. He has gone away and though about it and decided he would rather get the slips than the pads involved for dismissals.
Anderson also has the perfect physique for a modern quick, slim, lithe and flexible with no excess weight. He is rarely injured and never seems to tire. Compare this to the muscle bound Australian hulks such as Harris and Watson, who are always one dive or leap away from another injury. As is often the case less is sometimes more.
This mini series came no closer to ending the Lankans seam bowling worries. The lack of penetration remains the Achilles heel of Sri Lankan cricket. Things looked relatively rosy for the future during the burning embers of Murali’s international career, with Mendis to provide the mystery, Mathews the hard yards and Malinga the penetration. None of this has happened and Mahela the most inventive and courageous of captains is left with very little other than Herath’s stoic command of line and length- worthy but not consistently match winning.
The other quandary for the Sri Lankans is how to get Mathews as a batsmen and Chandimal in the same side. Both have to be for Sri Lanka in what is still a relatively barren time, need their best eleven players on the oval. The obvious vacancy is for one of them to open. Chandimal has more top order experience, but his technique still has flashes of the flash and these are best ironed out down the order.
At the moment Chandimal is a reactive player rather than a game setter and six is the perfect place for him to learn his craft.
Mathews has more experience in international cricket and at the moment the tighter technique. It looks like Mathews another conventionally ‘well built’ player, will have to let his bowling go, his body is just not made for it.
When batting in Test cricket Mathews is at his best when he has a set scenario to play to: batting with the tail and quick runs seem to cause him few problems, he seems to get a bit muddled though when waters are relatively calm. He has showed he has the mental toughness to go up the order and he has a simple technique based on hitting straight. Give him the brief of batting naturally at the top of the order and something very special may emerge. It’s worth a go surely after the endless openers who have tried and failed to partner Dilshan in the last few years.
Mahela’s captaincy was superb throughout as was his batting. Sri Lanka cricket faces no bigger challenge at the moment than persuading Mahela to stick around as skipper for as long as possible. Sri Lanka already looks a changed team from the disheartened bunch who trekked around a wintery England last year.
The P.Sara Oval did itself proud celebrating thirty years of Sri Lankan cicket. The new press box is top notch and seasoned journalists were purring about the quality of the lunches. The hospitality boxes are also kitted out very well, offering excellent views both inside, with AC, TV’s and a fridge full of pop and outside on the atmospheric balconies. The Barmy Army after bemoaning ticket prices of Rs 5K, far too much, had a great time, even on Poya Day when they were deprived off their life blood, beer. They were generous in their appreciation of Sri Lanka, sang their songs with gusto and created a real party spirit. Hats off to them.

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