However acting captain Suranga Lakmal was of the view that it was the spinners who had contributed largely to the two defeats.
“When we’ve play in Sri Lanka, our strength has been our spinners. Unfortunately in the last two games we didn’t get as many wickets from the spinners as quickly as we expected. The England batsmen played them really well. If we had bowled a little better we would have been able to win those two Tests. Everyone tries to stick to their strengths playing at home and for us it is our spinners,” said Lakmal at the pre-match press conference held at the SSC yesterday.
When it was pointed out that Sri Lanka had passed 300 only once in the series and no batsmen had so far scored a hundred against England’s three, Lakmal replied: “Our batsmen are a little low in confidence at the moment. The England batsmen are playing really well. If you look at the world, the next best players of spin after India are England. Although we didn’t get 20 wickets, I thought our spinners bowled okay. As a captain I am satisfied with their efforts.
“Their batsmen don’t let our spinners bowl in one spot to them. They sweep in both directions - the normal sweep and the reverse. They do that from the first ball of their innings. That’s something we should learn from when we play in Sri Lanka in the future. We’ve lost two games, but we’re in a good mental state to somehow win this match.”
Like in the previous two Tests, Lakmal said that they had requested for a pitch that favours spin.
However in this spin dominated series it is the England batters who have held the upperhand outscoring the home team’s batsmen who are renowned to play spin, but in this series are nowhere close to emulating their opponents.
In both Tests Sri Lanka had removed the England top order cheaply only to be frustrated by their lower order who has contributed to their match winning totals.
“In Pallekele there was a dropped catch, and if we had taken that the match could really have changed. Their last three batsmen in both games were able to contribute to partnerships worth over 100 runs. We’re trying to stop that in this game,” said Lakmal.
“Their top five are always trying to score runs quickly. After that they start to understand the pitch and start playing the spinners better. They also have a good batting line up. We can’t be making spinning pitches and letting their tail get runs. In the last two matches their final five scored about 250 - so in this match we’re trying to change that,”
KUSAL MENDIS’ FORM
The value of persisting with Kusal Mendis as a batsman despite his continued failures came into question. In his last 10 innings for his country in Tests and ODIs his contribution has been 117 runs from 10 innings which includes three ducks and a top score of 45. He has got out to the left-arm spin of Jack Leach on all four occasions in the series.
“In the last few years when we’ve won Tests, he’s a player who has contributed to those performances in a big way. As a captain, Kusal is definitely in my team. Dinesh Chandimal is out, and a lot of the batsmen don’t have a lot of experience. He was among the runs until recently - it’s only in the last six or seven games that he’s failed,” pointed out Lakmal.
“He’ll play in this game, because the next tours are important as well. We’re going to New Zealand soon. We can’t drop him for this match and bring him back for that game, because then he will fall down even more mentally. What we’re looking to do is to try to carry the players who aren’t performing and try and get them into a better frame of mind. Mendis is a valuable player for now and in the future,” he said.
Following Rangana Herath’s retirement from cricket at the end of the Galle Test, Sri Lanka find themselves without another wicket-taking spinner for this Test Akila Dananjaya who has gone to Brisbane to have his bowling action assessed after being reported. Dananjaya took a career best 6/115 in England’s second innings of the Pallekele Test.
“We’re missing Rangana Herath and Akila Dananjaya. They are the ones who bowled really well in the last three or four matches. That’s a big loss, but we’ve got two options (uncapped) Nishan Pieris and Lakshan Sandakan. It’ll be between those two,” said Lakmal.
Sri Lanka have also brought in opener Danushka Gunathilaka who probably will replace Kaushal Silva who’s had a poor series so far with scores of 1, 30, 6 and 4. Gunathilaka’s advantage as a spinner gives him an edge.