It has been a while since I wrote about cricket and the fans of the game among this blog’s readership (yes, both of them) may have felt that a post was long overdue. What prompts this one is a shocking result in which Sri Lanka has thoroughly defeated Australia in two consecutive Test matches played in Sri Lanka.
To understand why this is such a surprise, we need to understand that Australia is the number one ranked team in Test cricket, forging to the top with a powerful line up of strong batters and fast bowlers and aided by an aggressive win-at-all-costs attitude. Meanwhile Sri Lanka is ranked at lowly #7 out of the ten nations who play at this highest level and had just returned from a truly woeful tour of England where they failed to win even a single match in any of the three formats of the game. In addition to losing through retirement the services of their three top batters and having had a succession of injuries to their fast bowlers, they simply played badly. Their fielding was atrocious, their batting erratic, and the captaincy was uninspired. To cap it all, their running between the wickets was appalling with an extraordinary number of batters being run out, often attempting hopeless runs. Only their bowling showed any class.
While Australia has recently had a poor record playing on the South Asian subcontinent, partly due to the pitches they find there being slower than they are used to, this was against more powerful teams in India and Pakistan and I fully expected them to easily defeat Sri Lanka. So it was not surprising when on the first day of the first Test, the Sri Lankan batting collapsed once again for a measly 117 runs setting the stage for another humiliating defeat. But then in a stunning turnaround, they recovered and went on to beat the Australians.
I saw this as a fluke and fully expected the Australians to come charging back in the second Test and avenge that defeat. But to my surprise, Sri Lanka won this match even more easily, with the Australians seeming to be completely at sea against spin bowling.
I am not sure what is going on. Are the Australians really that bad at playing spin? Are the Sri Lankan spinners really that good? Among the Sri Lankan spin bowlers who did all the damage, only one of them Rangana Herath is a veteran with proven abilities. The other two Dilruwan Perera and Lakshan Sandakan have little international experience and the latter just made his debut in this series. One factor in both wins is that the Sri Lankan fielding has definitely been much better than what was on display in England.
While Sri Lankans are undoubtedly overjoyed at this unexpected upturn in their fortunes, Australia must do a lot of soul-searching as to what has gone wrong so suddenly. The third and final Test match begins on Saturday, August 13 in Colombo and major changes in the team’s composition are being considered.