“Dead decks kill Test cricket”

 

The first Test match played at Pallekle was way back in 2010 where the West Indies managed to post 303 for 8 in three days in the third Test because of the continuous interruption by inclement weather and in the end the match and the series ended without any results. In the following year, Australia visited Sri Lanka and the second Test at the same venue ended in a draw while in 2012, the 3rd Test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka faced the same fate.

Three years later in an exciting Test match and series, Pakistan broke the deadlock by chasing 382 runs in the fourth innings and forced a result for the first time at Pallekele. Then the Australians visited in 2016, which was one of the glorious Test series in the history of Test series, Pallekele produced not only a result but one of the magnificent comebacks by the home side. It produced result in the 2017-18 series against India and 2018-19 series against England and thus, the same was expected in the first test between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in 2021.

But what we witnessed was a dull end to the affair that was evident from the word go.

On the first day, the Sri Lankan wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella was collecting the ball at knee height. In the first hour, the ball bounced and moved because it was hard and new and with the progress of time, the lack of movement off the pitch and in the air, that diminished.

The Sri Lankan bowlers, trying to exhibit their aggressive intent, struggled to maintain their discipline and the visiting batsmen cashed in big time.

By mid-morning, the Bangladeshi batsmen were confidently pulling and hooking Lahiru Kumara’s fast and aggressive bouncers in front of the square and with ease.

The under-fire Nazmul Hossain was able to execute shots early with minimum technical efficiency and Mominul Haque enjoyed the deck better than anyone because he is an absolute beast on such impotent tracks. Even if the ball was on a length or back of a length, short or full, it was very easy to play shots all around the park by being on the front foot more often – so easy!

It was a hard time for the bowlers and picnic mood for the batters – The Bangladeshi batsmen, at least, maintained their composure on this impotent deck and scored runs by curbing their poor temperament and spent time at the crease – Nazmul Hossain chipped in with a hundred while skipper Mominul Haque notched up his first-ever Test ton outside the home – Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium to be specific. The tempo was set by Tamim Iqbal and the rest followed.

Neither there was any evidence of turn on the deck – the pitch was held itself well like a modern-day impotent Twenty20 or 50-over deck, where only the runs galore at the cost of the extremely hard work for the bowlers from both side.

While the response of the Sri Lankan batsmen was the same – they batted out Bangladesh by taking a lead more than a hundred where the skipper Dimuth Karunaratne and Dhanajaya de Silva smashed daddy hundreds to make the Bangladeshi bowlers toil hard under the hot sun.

Other than boosting the personal records Pallekele witnessed nothing.

Perhaps fortunes might have tilted here and there if the rain did not visit on Day 5 and bad light interfered on the other days, but otherwise, the impotent deck completely killed the Test at Pallekele.

Cricket is already a world for the batsmen and at least one format deserves a bit more for the bowlers and that is Test cricket. For the sake of business and the so-called modernization of cricket, the bowlers are like a bowling machine that runs in and bowl only to get hit and left stranded with a Parkinson-face.

There was a time when the critics, journalists and players themselves criticized when the tracks were dead – the majority backed the sporting decks and never complained if the ball bounced, swung or turned.

Today it’s different. If the ball bounces, swings or turns; immediately the quality of the deck is questioned, but if runs galore like Pallekele, it is termed as a good track. The conception of a good wicket means run-scoring should be easy and people come to see boundaries and sixes have paved the way for the shortest formats to rule.

Dead decks kill Test cricket.

Sri Lanka has a history of producing some of the death decks ever but in the meantime, they produced some of the testing decks as well which offered some outstanding Test matches. The batsmen are needed to be tested and as usual, only then a contest would become fascinating. Surely, Sri Lanka would not disappoint in the second Test.

 

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