Grounded, battered and bruised as Test cricket’s whipping boys, Sri Lanka and West Indies needed a break from the constant hammering and decided to take each other on in what appeared to be an innocuous Test series in the Caribbean. With each passing Test match, it became evident that the contest had the makings of a wonderful series.
Starting from West Indies’ dreamy win to Sri Lanka’s strong resistance to the ball-tampering saga to the low-scoring thriller in the pink ball Test, the series was a nail-biting one, to say the least. While constantly ridiculed for their respective Test form, Sri Lanka and West Indies have, without a shade of doubt, hopped on a sine curve to the peak of their powers. The series was a testimony to this very fact. Here we pen down a few takeaways for the teams from this eye-catching series.
Sri Lanka don’t need Herath to win
The last time Sri Lanka won a Test match without either Muttiah Muralitharan or Rangana Herath in the XI was way back in 2002. Yet, Chandika Hathurusinga, in a rather bold move, decided to change things around and give Lanka a new lease of life. Herath was dropped and the result was Sri Lanka’s pace bowlers lifting their game to a higher level.
Sri Lanka winning a Test in the last 30 years w/o Muralitharan & Herath in the XI:
vs Bangladesh in 2002, Colombo (SSC)
vs Windies in 2018, Bridgetown#WIvSL
— Sampath Bandarupalli (@SampathStats) June 27, 2018
The bowling attack was sharp and incisive and took Lanka to a fabulous win in the pink ball Test, bowling Windies out for 93 in the second innings. Sri Lanka’s performances had largely hinged on Herath in the recent past and this bittersweet win was an anomaly in many ways. This could even be the beginning of a new era for Sri Lanka’s Test fortunes.
West Indies’ top order need to contribute more
While Windies can be pretty proud of their performances in recent times, they would do well to remind themselves that the bulk of the hard work has come from the lower half of their line-up. Their bowlers have been stupendous but the lower middle-order has been brilliant with the bat and contributed almost as much as the top order in terms of runs.
Since 2016, Windies’ lower order (6-11) have contributed 39.24% of the total runs West Indies have made in Tests. This includes four centuries and sixteen half-centuries. Among Test teams, the four centuries from positions 6 of lower is on par with the likes of Australia and South Africa. The top order (1-5) have meanwhile contributed just 7 hundreds in this time frame and average just 29.76, the lowest among the top nine Test teams. They need their top order to score big and more consistently.
The fast bowlers could give the two teams a fresh life
Such has been the performances of the seamers in this series that both teams will walk away knowing that they have some.high-quality talents in the making. While the Windies pace attack led by Shannon Gabriel had slowly started earning a reputation in recent times, Sri Lanka supposedly had only Suranga Lakmal.
That perception changed during the course of this series with Kasun Rajitha and Lahiru Kumara bowling brilliantly in crunch situations. Kumara finished with 17 wickets from the 3 Tests, the second best after Gabriel. Holder and Lakmal shared 12 apiece while Rajitha (2 Tests) and Roach were level on 11. That the top six wicket-takers in the series were fast bowlers shows how good the two teams have been in this department.
Sri Lanka need to safeguard their middle order
While Sri Lanka’s batting woes in recent times have been well documented, the emergence of a strong middle-order has given Hathurusinga and co some relief. Kusal Mendis has excelled in his role as an opener but was moved back to the middle order during the series, a move which could well be done away with when they play South Africa at home in two weeks.
In Dinesh Chandimal, Roshen Silva and Dhananjaya de Silva, they have a mighty talented group of batsmen in the middle-order. When Angelo Mathews and Dimuth Karunaratne return, Lanka will be no pushovers. The opening has been a problem but Karunaratne and Mathews’ return should see them use Mendis at the top with the southpaw and Mathews in the middle-order.
The lower middle is shored up by the impeccable Dilruwan Perera and it also has Kusal Perera or Niroshan Dickwella. The two swashbuckling wicket-keeper batsmen form a counter-attacking option against the second new ball. From vulnerable, the Sri Lankan Test team has quickly acquired a formidable look and seem ready to test the Proteas.