There has been some interesting cricket going on around the world. The most fascinating has been the tour of England by Pakistan. Fresh after completely dominating Sri Lanka earlier in the summer, England faced a more formidable opponent in Pakistan who won the first Test by just 75 runs in a tight game. But England recovered to dominate the second Test, winning by a mammoth 330 runs and then took the third Test as well, coming back from a first innings deficit of 103 to win the match. The third day of the fourth Test has just ended and Pakistan seem poised to even the series on the fourth day, with England still needing 126 runs to
win make Pakistan bat for the second time but with only six wickets left.
Meanwhile, India is touring the West Indies and are completely dominating them, having won the first and third Tests easily, with the second being drawn. The Indian batters have not been troubled by the West Indian bowling and the West Indian batters have only shown real grit in the second innings of the drawn second Test. The fourth and last Test is likely to go India’s way too, possibly shifting them to the top of the rankings of Test playing nations, given the defeat of the current top-ranked Australia in the three Test series they are playing in Sri Lanka, though Pakistan also has a shot at taking the top spot.
Sri Lanka shocked Australia by winning the first two Tests quite easily, thanks to their spin bowlers being able to dominate the Australian batters. The third Test that started today initially promised a strong comeback by Australia as the Sri Lankan batting collapsed spectacularly to 26 for 5 in the first hour, leading to speculation that they might post their lowest score ever, the earlier record being 71 against Pakistan in 1994.
This Sri Lankan early order batting collapse has been a familiar story in this series but so has been the inability of the Australian bowlers to seal the deal. Instead we saw once again a recovery by the late order Sri Lankan batters, again led by a newcomer, this time 24-year old Dhananjaya de Silva playing in only his second Test match, who scored 116 and along with Dinesh Chandimal’s 64 took the team to 214 for 5 wickets at the close of the first day’s play.
In the past I have been highly critical of the ability of Sri Lankan batters to dig in and play a long innings when necessary. They seemed to lack the intense concentration required to fight back when the going got tough, the kind of fortitude displayed by people like Hanif Mohammed. I put it down to the influence of the shorter forms of the game, especially the twenty-over variety, which places a premium on quick scoring of runs rather than digging in and building up a big score.
I have read comments made by Sri Lankan and Australian batters on this tour that they will eventually get an unplayable ball that will get them out and that hence they need to score runs as quickly as they can before that ball comes along. They have used this to justify their making risky shots and getting out. That kind of fatalistic thinking would have been anathema to old school types like Hanif Mohammed who felt that solid technique and good concentration would enable them to meet any challenge the bowlers threw at them. It was good to see de Silva and Chandimal showing at least glimpses of that way of thinking.
This game looks poised to be an exciting one. Australia need to get a breakthrough early tomorrow morning and wrap up the Sri Lankan innings quickly if they are not to find themselves in a deep hole, since team scores of 300 have proved to be winning ones on the pitches provided for this low-scoring tour.