Sri Lanka should not be disappointed with the 2-0 loss in the series against New Zealand. That result was pretty much on expected lines. But, what they should be slightly dissatisfied with is the manner in which they lost the Hamilton Test, having played themselves into a position of strength. The visitors’ inexperience came to the fore as they crumbled after being under no pressure at all, and allowed the New Zealanders to mount a comeback. Angelo Mathews’ young team should look back at the series as a good learning curve. But, a surprise victory here would have done immense good to their confidence.
As Sri Lanka look back at the Hamilton Test, they would rue their batting collapse in the second innings, something which Mathews himself admitted. Having gained a crucial first innings lead thanks to some impressive bowling, Sri Lanka were cruising at one stage at 71 for no loss, with both the openers looking comfortable out in the middle. But, once the opening pair of Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Mendis was separated, Sri Lanka collapsed so quickly that by the time one realised what was going on, New Zealand had already begun their chase.
Collapsing from 71 for no loss to 133 is rather inexplicable even if one takes into consideration that things were not that easy for batsmen out in the middle, and that the Kiwi bowlers exploited the conditions very adeptly. Only three batsmen managed to get into double figures, and that says a lot about how poorly they batted. And, even among the three who got starts, none carried on. The batting collapse meant Sri Lanka had lost their best chance of pushing for a victory. To be fair to them, there was too much inexperience in the batting to cope with the conditions.
Under the circumstances, Sri Lanka would have been keen for their experienced players to put their hands up. Skipper Mathews batted with doggedness in the first-innings, top scoring with 77. It was a much needed score for Mathews in the wake of his recent struggles. Milinda Siriwardana also batted with poise for his half-century. When the duo were at the crease, Sri Lanka must have harboured hopes of a 350 plus score. But, they again failed to capitalise on the situation, collapsing to finish on a sub-300 score. Earlier Dinesh Chandimal got 47, but he too did not carry on.
Among all the disappointments, there was one bright spot for the Lankans – the pacy bowling off Dushmantha Chameera. After Lanka’s batsman had failed to put up a competitive score on the board, Chameera ran in, and caught the Kiwis off-guard with his well-directed bouncers. He got five big wickets, including that of Kane Williamson as Sri Lanka fought back against all odds. He found good support from Rangana Herath and Nuwan Pradeep. In the second innings as well, Chameera rose to the challenge, but Sri Lanka just did not have enough runs to play with.
--By A Cricket Analyst