The absence of the DRS had its shortcomings with Sri Lanka being at the receiving end of it on a couple of occasions, but overall considering this factor and the slow pitches they encountered the 1-0 result they achieved was described by chairman of selectors Ashantha de Mel as “above average”.
“There was no TV and there were no replays and no reviews they had some live streaming that’s all. That also had an impact on us. We got some decisions that went against us,” said De Mel.
“(Dinesh) Chandimal was very unlucky to be given out caught off his boot in the first Test. In the second Test when he was needed he went in there and held the side together he batted for about 75 balls and scored 13 runs. Test cricket is not only the case of scoring runs but occupation of the crease and when the chips are down not get out but to go in there and grind. Chandimal showed good character. Those are things that the coaches are looking at.
“Then in the second Test Brendan Taylor was caught off his glove at 7 off Dhananjaya de Silva when he swept at a ball and he went onto score 62 at a run a ball that put the rate up. If we had got him at that time they would have been 50-3. Then (Lasith) Embuldeniya dropped an easy catch off (Sikander) Raza and he got 72. We were at the receiving end some from technology and some from our mistakes. But generally our fielding was good,” he said.
NO SPONSORS, NO DRS
“Zimbabwe Cricket could not afford DRS because they didn’t have a sponsor for the series. It’s a rare occasion in modern day cricket to have a series played without DRS. Playing a Test series without reviews and taking all these things into account a 1-0 win is okay. We didn’t have an excellent tour but overall our performance was good. I wouldn’t say excellent but above average.
“Zimbabwe was quite tough because the wickets were very slow and low. Unfortunately we lost both the tosses and they got the better chance to bat. That put a lot of pressure on our bowlers. The ball was hanging and there was no seam movement,” De Mel added.
De Mel said the coach Mickey Arthur was happy with the performance of the team in the first Test but not the second where they conceded 352 runs off 90 overs on the first day and then when their turn came to bat put up a poor display to be dismissed for 290 and concede a first innings lead of 119.
“Zimbabwe’s strategy was to go after the spinners because the ball wasn’t spinning that much. Out of the 406 they scored in the first innings, 253 were scored off the spinners. It wasn’t a great day. Then we didn’t bat well in the first innings. If you look at some of the way our batsmen got out unnecessarily we gave away our wickets. The ball was keeping low and we knew that,” said De Mel.
“We had a couple of unfortunate dismissals also. Kusal Mendis played the pull shot and it hit the short leg on the helmet and ricocheted to the fielder. We had a few decisions that went against us and we were bowled out for 290 which was not good. That put a lot of pressure on us. But we recovered quite well in the second innings and Mendis actually batted really well for his unbeaten century and we managed to draw the match. The coach however wasn’t that pleased with the bowling performance on the first day. What he says is that Test cricket is a hard grind and if you don’t get wickets, you have to put the opposition under pressure by not allowing them to score many runs. He told the boys what he had to say and they are working on it now.”
MATHEWS KEEN TO PLAY T20 CRICKET
One of the key factors to emerge from the series was the fitness of former captain Angelo Mathews who had a few issues with regard to it in the recent past but showed great resolve to score a career best double century in the first Test.
“Mathews has lost about 6½ kilos and he is training hard because he wants to play T20 cricket. The coach has told him he has to run and field well and also be able to bowl about 3-4 overs to stay in the shorter format. He is putting effort and you can see that. He batted for 10 hours under hot, sultry and energy sapping conditions. We were 5000 feet above sea level and the breathing was not easy with less oxygen. It took a bit of toll on the players,” said De Mel.
What positives would Sri Lanka take from the Zimbabwe series to the next series against England in March?
England will be very tough but if we are able to keep our focus and do our disciplines properly then we can compete, that is the most important thing. The coaches are putting the boys through their paces. They are much fitter you can see that the fast bowlers are bowling long spells Suranga (Lakmal) bowled 87 overs and (Lahiru) Kumara 80 overs, they are putting effort.
“The positives are the disciplines bowling on a flat pitch and on the first day to keep Zimbabwe down to 189 runs. If you can’t get wickets at least you must not allow them to runaway with the game.
“The other thing is batting for long periods. Test cricket is not going in and batting it’s a case of grinding and building an innings. Scoring centuries is important Mathews and Mendis scored hundreds those are the positives we are taking. The spinners must know how to bowl on flat tracks. Embuldeniya has played only about 6-7 tests he is young and he is learning.
“The management won’t take any slack they have told the players off. I think we are on the right track. They have just taken over so we’ll have to give them a little time. Generally the turnover and the inputs they are putting are much better. I see a little bit of improvement but let’s see how they fare against England. It will be a good test.”