If you are a Sri Lanka fan, you have to feel for Rangana Herath.
Right from the start of this Galle Test, nothing has gone right for him.
It all started, when the old fox tweaker was forced to lead the team, following an injury to Dinesh Chandimal. Losing an experienced cricketer like Chandimal both as a batsman and a leader, ahead of a series against the number one ranked team in the world, was a huge blow to Sri Lanka’s chances if there was any.
Remember, they were coming to this competition on the backdrop losing an ODI series against Zimbabwe at home and somehow avoiding a Test defeat against the same opponent.
The hosts prepared a classic batting for the Galle Test. Clearly, they wanted to play safely in this opening fixture of the series. With three spinners in the side, they were desperate to bat first. But, unfortunately, Herath lost the crucial toss and his bowlers leaked 600 runs to the opposition.
Despite the wholehearted effort of Nuwan Pradeep, who took 6 for 132 in his comeback game after clearing his bowling action, it was a complete failure from Sri Lanka’s bowling point of view. Other than Pradeep, no other bowler, not even the experienced skipper, looked threatening to even unsettle the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara or the debutant Hardik Pandya. The Indian batting, including the lower-order batters, took full advantage of this demoralised bowling attack on hot and humid conditions. It was a good opportunity to set new records and the Indian batsmen did exactly that.
Sri Lanka’s reckless fielding, including those drop catches, did not help their cause either. In addition, the host are currently replying to India’s total with one batsman short. Middle order batsman Asela Gunaratne has already been ruled out of the match and the series after sustaining ‘an intra articular comminuted fracture’ to his left thumb while dropping that easy chance of Dhawan at the second slip on Day 1.
Coming into this fixture, Gunaratne’s confidence must have been sky high. He had just played a heroic knock, with a hamstring injury, to help Sri Lanka chase down a record score against Zimbabwe. He was considered as one of the prime batsmen in this team. But now, Herath and his team won’t be able to use his batting prowess, at least in this three-match series against India.
Under these circumstances, the hosts would have expected the rest of the batting to stand up and fight. But, they too could not survive against the accuracy and discipline of Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav. In fact, they lost Upul Tharanga, the only batsmen who was batting with some authority, with a run-out. This sums up Sri Lanka’s misfortunes in this Test so far.
By the end of Day 2, five Sri Lankan batsmen have already been back in the hut and they are still 247 runs away from the follow-on mark. Angelo Mathews, who remained unbeaten on 54, is their only faint hope to save this game, along with some assistance from the weather gods.
However, as Pradeep mentioned in the post-day press conference, Sri Lanka have to hang around here. Cricket is a funny game and you never know what is awaiting in the near future.
Well, Sri Lanka need nothing short of a miracle to go to Colombo, without considering a lead to India in the series.