“Yes, Silva deserved a hundred, which he narrowly missed but perhaps, in the context of the match this innings of 85 is as valuable as a ton, if not more”
It has been a day of resurgence for the Sri Lankan Test team in Pallekele. With 0-1 down in the three-match series and tottering at 165 for 6 in pursuit of England first innings score of 290 on a challenging surface, the Islanders seemed down and out in the second Test. Jack Leach and Adil Rashid – the two English spinners were over the Sri Lankan middle-order with their drift and variations. At that point, an England lead seemed in inevitable.
Well, amid such difficulties, Roshen Silva produced a masterclass of resilient batting. Surviving mostly with the lower-middle order and the tailenders, the 29-year old, almost single-handedly bailed the Lankans out the hole with a fighting 174-ball 85 – perhaps the most daring innings of this series so far. The last three partnerships added precious 125 runs for the home team with Sliva scoring 60 of those. He not only played his own game, but Silva also guided the likes of Dilruwan Perera, Akila Dananjaya and the stand-in skipper Suranga Lakmal, through their knocks all well. Their efforts not only helped the home team cross get rid of the deficit, but it also provided them with a handy 46-run lead and which can very well turn out to be a crucial factor in the outcome of the match.
Following the defeat in the last Test, Sri Lanka’s ‘childish’ batting approach was criticised severely. Perhaps, it hurt their ego and through their late fightback, the hosts were looking to prove a point on Thursday. The maturity in Silva’s batting was a true spectacle to watch. On that extreme pitch, against a versatile bowling attack, which had three quality spinners, he showed why he is being regarded as one of the most dependable and consistent performers in Sri Lanka’s domestic circuit.
When Silva arrived at the crease, the home side had lost 4 for 38 since Lunch. The spinners were getting some vicious turn out of that pitch. In fact, they looked like taking a wicket in every odd delivery. So, knowing those extremely challenging conditions, Silva came prepared for a dogfight. He knew, there would be play-and-misses and outside edges, especially early in his innings. But the youngster, who had featured in eight Test matches prior to this game, applied himself at the crease.
Silva was batting with soft-hands to counter the spin and because of it, outside edges were not carrying to the close-in fielders. Even at times, England skipper Joe Root kept his point fielder in a catching position. But in front of Silva’s solid defence, even that ploy did not work for them.
Generally, while batting with the tail, the main batsman tries to be an aggressor and get runs quickly. But here Silva was quite old-fashioned with his approach. Instead of those expansive strokes, shots like late cuts, back-and-across flicks to the on-side and controlled off drives provided the substance to his innings.
Nevertheless, unable to dislodge Sliva from the crease, England were forced to take the second new ball. James Anderson and Sam Curran tried to bring the ball in, targeting his pads. But the batsman was up to the mark. He covered the stumps and batted out of the crease to smother the movement. Even learning from his partner, Dananjaya too adopted that ploy successfully for a while. The 10th wicket partnership between Silva and Danajaya fetched Sri Lanka important 56 runs and clearly, it was a frustrating phase of play for England.
After crossing his half-century, Silva finally looked for some quick runs. He came down the track against Moeen Ali and hit him for a six straight down the ground. By that time Sri Lanka had already acquired a lead and the situation provided Silva the liberty and the confidence to even go for reverse-sweeping. And eventually, this change in gears resulted in his downfall. At 85, while trying to clear in-field against Rashid, Silva failed to get the elevation and offered a straight-forward catch to Moeen.
Yes, Silva deserved a hundred, which he narrowly missed but perhaps, in the context of the match this innings of 85 is as valuable as a ton, if not more.