By Dinouk Colombage
One loss, one draw and two wins in warm up games. The results for Sri Lanka so far during their tour of England have been a mixed bag, leaning towards disappointment.
Prior to departure, T.M. Dilshan made the bold statement that he would be the first Sri Lankan captain to win in England. That dream has gone out the window, yet from a personal stance Dilshan can feel proud of his performance with the bat.
Having lost the first test at Cardiff, following a batting collapse that could only be rivalled by an under 13 team, Sri Lanka re-grouped admirably for the second test at Lords. The home of cricket has ironically been a happy hunting ground for Sri Lanka, with a host of outstanding individual performances recorded there. This time was no different.
Dilshan won the toss and took many by surprise as he elected to field under clear skies and on a track which certainly looked capable of producing a ton of runs. His bowlers repaid his faith in the first hour reducing the hosts to three for 40. To put this performance in greater perspective the Sri Lankan bowlers only managed to snare five wickets in the last test match and conceded 496 runs in the process. This turnaround can be attributed solely to what looked like a better balanced bowling line-up. Thisara Perera and Ajantha Mendis had been given the boot for Dilhara Fernando and Chanaka Welegedara. Not only did they offer pace but Welegedara provided a different angle being a left arm bowler. Unfortunately the bowlers were unable to maintain the pressure and England eventually reached 486.
In reply, Dilshan stamped his credentials on the Lords record boards and in the minds of English spectators. He cut, drove and flicked his way to a magnificent 193 surpassing Sidath Wettimuny’s 190, the highest score by a Sri Lankan batsman at Lords, scored 27 years ago. Dilshan still has questions over his tactics as a captain, yet his batting has clearly taken the next step since being appointed captain.
Tharanga Paranavitana has also shown that he is a capable ally for Dilshan as he too racked up yet another well composed half century. It was his innings which allowed Dilshan to return to his natural game.
It is not all sunshine ahead for Sri Lanka, their batting line-up still looks brittle with three senior middle order players failing to find any fluency. Returning on day four at 372 for 3, a sizeable lead looked ready for the taking. The batsmen once capitulated and were bowled out for 479. An innings dominated by Dilshan saw extras being recorded as the third highest contributor, 58. This leaves the question: how did Sri Lanka manage to lose 7 wickets for 106 runs? England bowled down the leg side, wide of the off-stump and often too short. Steve Finn returned figures of four for 108, it should be mentioned that he will be more than likely replaced by James Anderson for the third test. His figures clearly flattered an otherwise an average bowling performance.
So where does Sri Lanka go from here? Their opening partnership is a definite fixture, their bowlers look the right combination and their bowler batsman balance looks correct. So now the onus is on senior batsmen to step forward. Kumar Sangakarra has made no effort to hide his displeasure on the field, why he is displeased is another question. Mahela Jayawardene looks woefully out of form as he laboured to 49 in the second test. Prasanna Jayawardene looked solid but questions exist over whether he is a genuine number six. Thilan Samaraweera has been reliable in the past and his past may be what is saving his spot for the last test. Farveez Mahroof looks down on pace and awkward with the bat, it maybe that the all-rounder spot should be switched around with Thisara Perera.
Sri Lanka travels to the Rose Bowl, Southampton this week looking to square the series. Questions surround the availability of Dilshan having suffered a hairline fracture to his thumb. If unavailable, Sri Lanka’s batsmen must put their best foot forward if they wish to win the game. England showed that they are not willing to force any results having won the first test, this will leave the Lions chasing a result even before the first ball is bowled.