England laid traps and Sri Lanka’s batsmen sometimes fell into them with such willingness, it was as if they were “school kids”. That was Sri Lanka head coach Chandika Hathurusingha‘s take, following the 211-run drubbing at Galle – a match in which Sri Lanka mustered scores of only 203 and 250, after England racked up 342 and 322 for 6.
Several Sri Lanka batsmen made starts and appeared confident at the crease in both innings, before a loose stroke brought about their dismissal. In the first innings, for example, Niroshan Dickwella pushed at a Moeen Ali delivery, and put it straight in the hands of the short cover that had been placed there for exactly that stroke. In the second dig, Kusal Mendis ran at Jack Leach immediately hitting him over mid-off for a boundary, and wound up holing out to the same fielder.
Even Angelo Mathews could easily have fallen for a trap that England set for him early in his innings, when he pulled a short ball from Ben Stokes to the midwicket fielder, but he earned a reprieve as he was dropped by James Anderson.
Hathurusingha was not unhappy with Sri Lanka’s positive intent, even when they were batting to save a Test. But their option-taking irked him.
“When you play Test cricket, you need to understand how people are going to get you out – even at club cricket you need to understand that,” Hathurusingha said. “You cannot come to international cricket and learn that. If you are doing things like playing against turn and getting out, it is sad. The opposition looks like they are playing with school kids.
“It is very disappointing with the way we got out – getting out to the traps they set. You can play your natural game, but that doesn’t mean you are given free licence to play shots regardless of the situation. You need to understand what the opposition is trying to do. “
Hathurusingha also expected a little more gamesmanship from his batsmen. Dhananjaya de Silva, for example, was out in the over before lunch on day four – an over that began just in the nick of time, but might not have done so had Sri Lanka’s batsmen delayed during the previous over that Joe Root delivered specifically to speed up the match.
“This is something I didn’t see in my first tenure with the team [before 2010] – it’s in this tenure I am seeing it. Prior to this, people were more intelligent,” he said. “You can do simple things like wasting a bit of time to ensure that they didn’t bowl an extra over. You take your shoe lace off. We learned that when we were playing school cricket. When we used to play cricket, we learned from people who played with us, and we had like certain periods of game where we bowl short. Or certain times we bowl on certain areas of the wicket to test the batsmen’s patience.”
In addition to the wasteful batting across both inning, Hathurusingha also rued allowing England to mount 342 in the first innings, having had them at 103 for 5 in the first session. The contributions of offspinner Akila Dananjaya came in for especial scrutiny – Dananjaya got only two wickets in the match, and conceded more than 4.7 runs per over.
“We had taken five wickets early but we couldn’t take the game forward,” Hathurusingha said. “Players with not much experience scored runs for them. I thought the support we got from Akila was not sufficient. After reducing them to 100 for five, if you had given only another 150 runs for the next five batters, we would have been still in the game at this stage.”