“Yes, the trio played a game together after six long months – they prefer fielding three specialist spinners at home – but at the highest level, when the conditions are for the offing, that will hardly sum up as an excuse”

In a match where the Kiwi quicks Trent Boult and Tim Southee created ripples, the Sri Lankan bowlers were vastly underwhelming and ineffective, erring in their lines and lengths constantly, which allowed New Zealand to race away to a first innings total of 578 runs. The trio of Lahiru Kumara, Kasun Rajitha and Suranga Lakmal failed to learn from their counterparts, who stuck to bowling a fuller length, occasionally troubling the visitors with a shorter ball as well.

After flourishing with the Duke balls in West Indies that swung a great deal, a lot was expected from the fast bowlers and even though the wicket lacked the sting of Day 1, it was not as placid, as Boult and Southee showed on the third day, as they reduced Sri Lank to 20 for 3. However, Kumara, Lakmal and Rajitha looked as ordinary as ever, conceding 359 runs between them while picking up only 5 wickets. While Kumara was the best of the lot, scalping 4 wickets, Rajitha was the worst, going for 144 runs in 34 overs.

Though Kumara looked menacing early on in the innings, bowling well above the 140kmph-mark, as Tom Latham settled down, the room given to the batters increased as well. His short of a length deliveries, over time, lost the zing as Raval punched them through point and though he managed to get the opener off the very next ball, he lost his steam as soon as Kane Williamson walked out. The first three balls that Kumara bowled to the Kiwi skipper were just a tad bit short and outside the off-stump, which was easily played away for four by the genius.

He tried bouncing out Williamson, just like Neil Wagner had done consistently in his spell, but Kumara was unable to control his line, spraying the bouncers down to leg-side instead. Over the course of the innings, he did try changing his lengths and it would have worked had it not been for his off-stump line, which the likes of Ross Taylor and Latham played away with power. The bowler did bowl above 144kmph to Henry Nicholls, but by constantly bowling short of a length balls, he allowed the batsman enough room to clip it away.

Also read: Tom Latham’s patient knock pushes him away from the shadows

The outside-off balls were pitched up and the back of a length deliveries allowed the batsman room to open up their defence and though he did return with four scalps, the intensity in his bowling was clearly lacking.

Rajitha at the other end was even more inconsistent, bowling fullish deliveries outside off. He gave enough room to the batsmen as well, pitching on a length around middle and leg stump. He did not bowl with much pace, and hence it was imperative that he did not let the rivals shoulder their arms to him. However, by bowling short balls on length to Latham and sending down balls in Williamson’s arc, he was punished. To Taylor, he constantly bowled at his pads – an area where one should NOT bowl to Rosco. Half-volleys on middle-stump and length balls when Latham had crossed 150 showed how little Rajitha was planning his overs.

Two short balls – one around off and one on the leg side – were sent away for three sixes by Colin de Grandhomme and when Boult sent away to the four after expecting a short ball, it was evident how very predictable Rajitha had been.

Lakmal was the more attacking bowler of the three. His deliveries seamed in and he was unlucky to have a good length delivery around middle and off sent away to the boundary by Raval. His back of a length deliveries got good carry early on and he troubled the players by bowling in the corridor of uncertainty. The short balls too were banged in the right lines and with slight away movement as well, he looked like the most threatening bowler upfront.

Even the fours that came off his balls were not exactly bad deliveries – Raval at first smashed him with a full face of the bat and then Latham creamed him with excellent timing. In the 37th over, a sharp short ball rushed Latham up for pace and a few overs later, Williamson jumped up to get to the bounce before slicing it for four.

However, there is so little that Lakmal could have done as the bowlers at the other end were constantly spewing runs. “We should’ve done better – I thought we didn’t hit the right areas and we didn’t bowl the lengths – which they did – consistently well. We bowled too short a length at times, and at others, it was right up like a half-volley. It wasn’t an [ideal] in-between thing. If you see the New Zealand bowlers, they’ve bowled a better length and a line in the second innings. Maybe the first innings you can say the wicket helped them. But if we had created a better line and a better length, it would have been a much happier day for me and the whole team,” were the words of bowling coach Rumesh Ratnayake.

Yes, the trio played a game together after six long months – they prefer fielding three specialist spinners at home – but at the highest level, when the conditions are for the offing, that will hardly sum up as an excuse.

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