Is test match batting less challenging in Sri Lanka ?
The best way to measure is- how easy runs can be accumulated( balls/wkts)losing less wickets, and the team’s run-rate.
Last July when Australia toured Sri Lanka the surface was dry and had uneven bounce –batting was most challenging for both teams, especially for the tourist, who had a nightmare batting on those pitches(Avg 19.87, @ 2.84 R/o, & lost wicket every 42 balls!.
This year when Bangladesh toured Sri Lanka in March – both teams did not have much of problem as they produced enough runs in first innings.
Than Zimbabwe took test batting to another level last month (July 2017) – viz attack from onset – One must praise them for the courage they showed when batting against quality spin on turning pitches. It is often said “when you have nothing to lose play with great freedom”, however very few have accomplishing it, and Zimbabwe was one of them.
Now India is touring Sri Lanka for a 3-Test series. They have already dominated the series by winning the first test with huge margin.
The Lankans need to fight this challenge by batting with freedom and maturity – the surface in Sri Lanka this series seems to be less venomous – it is much better than last year – yet one has to score runs to compete.
Perhaps they can keep little grass for the last test at Pallekele. This will assist their young fast bowlers and experience spinners as well.
Are spinners losing their weaving in Sri Lanka ?
They have conceding more runs, and in particular – especially in boundaries!.
Here is series-wise bowling performance since 2016
Australia in Sri Lanka – 2016
Interesting for Australia Mitchell Starc was the most successful bowler and only one to pick five-wicket haul – He had 3 in the series along with one ten wicket haul.
For Sri Lanka it was Rangana Herath(3 x five wkt haul & one ten wkt haul) and Diluwara Perera( 1 x five wkt haul & one ten wkt haul). Their spinners picked 54 (out of 58) wickets conceding less than 3 runs/over.
Table 2 –Bangladesh in Sri Lanka – 2017
This was probably the series where Sri Lankans spinners lost their edge on home soil. The series was drawn as Bangladesh who were 0-1 down, went on to win the second test to level the series. Perhaps the pitch was not assisting any type of spin and allowing batsman to play with more freedom?
. All the batting indicators was healthy with rise in boundary rate against spin and reduction in maiden overs.
Sri Lankans fast bowlers picked only 5 wickets(compare to 13 for Bangladesh) with strike rate of 97 balls/wkt – this probably added more pressure on their spinners – whose Eco. Rate went up –Perhaps for the first time only one bowler in either side picked a five wkt haul in a 2 test series. At Galle Herath picked 6-59 in 2nd inns.
Table 3 – Zimbabwe in Sri Lanka – One-off Test match.
“Hammering the hail as hard as possible” – this might be the motto of Zimbabwean for their one off test- This after their historic victory in their ODI series. They lost the test by 4 wkts
Here one was surprised by Cremer leadership and lack of trust in his fast bowlers – They only bowled 27 overs (out of 218)in both innings. They were defending 391.
Interestingly Sri Lankan spinners conceded more runs(3.45 v 3.22) than Zimbabwean, and bowled less maiden overs(8.52 v 9.48)!.
Table 4- India in Sri Lanka (first Test)
From one game it is too early to judge yet it seems Sri Lankan fast bowlers are finally getting their due in numbers column– irrespective of how they get their wickets – their wickets tally is more than their spinners in first test.
Indian fast bowlers too conceded more runs(4.48) .The run rate for the first test was 4.04 – and boundary rate is 8.05 – the highest ever in Sri Lanka…but early to say.
I like to add a thought here “Sri Lanka can produce greener pitches that will help both fast bowlers and spinners. They have some good new fast bowlers. Their pitches are not deteriorating fast to be unplayable.
It is not fair to depend on spin every time they play at home, especially using the new ball – eventually they lose their edge – and perhaps Rangana Herath is losing his edge, and the fact remains -he won’t be playing forever – and in Sandakan they have a exiting spinner.
If they are able to produce a surface which has little more grass, this will not only help their fast bowlers but also their top order batsmen- to play swing and seam – currently like most countries their openers are struggling to get a start adding pressure on middle order.
Increase in run-rate against spin in Sri LankaThe red marked indicators in below table reflects rapid growth in those section. The run rate is climbing every series, along with its (related to scoring rate and boundary rate). Resulting in reduction of maiden overs- and this has great effect on how spinners dismiss batters in Asia , viz L B W. Every test played in Sri Lanka features a century now!.