Sri Lanka in SA

No let-up for Lankan batsmen

2011-12-23 16:58
Tillakaratne Dilshan (File)

Durban - There will likely be no let-up for Sri Lanka's under-fire batting lineup in next week's second Test, with rain in Durban on Friday hinting at another field day for South Africa's buoyant fast bowlers.

Having been bowled out for 180 and 150 to lose the first Test by an innings, Sri Lanka's misfiring batters look set to face another green-tinged, seamer-friendly surface at Kingsmead from Monday as they aim to fight their way back into the three-Test contest and avoid a fourth straight series defeat.

Sri Lanka captain Tillakaratne Dilshan said his team's underperforming top order - experienced as it is - was responsible for the poor recent run. The skipper conceded the group was now suffering from a lack of confidence as well as runs, leading to the tourists swapping training for team-bonding sessions this week.

The Sri Lankans have not won in 15 Tests after falling to a heavy defeat in Centurion under an onslaught from the Proteas' quicks to start their first long format tour of South Africa in nine years in familiar fashion: the tourists have never won a Test here and are now 0-7 with one draw in South Africa.

Dilshan, Tharanga Paranavitana, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene all failed in the series opener with more expected, especially, of No 1 Test batsman Sangakkara and former captain Jayawardene. Recalled veteran Thilan Samaraweera and allrounder Angelo Mathews fared slightly better.

There was no excuse for the poor performances, Sri Lanka batting coach and former player Marvan Atapattu said after Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn ripped through the visitors lineup twice inside three days - not even a long-running saga over Sri Lanka's players not being paid salaries for nine months.

"There have been more than a couple of batting failures in the last six months or so," Atapattu said. "Obviously we have had various issues but as of now there are no excuses. This is the best, or let me put it this way, this is the most experienced six batsmen we can have from Sri Lanka in test match cricket.

"They have put runs on the board earlier and it is their responsibility to put runs on the board over and over again while they play for Sri Lanka. Simple as that."

Sangakkara made 1 and 2 in the first Test, although he was playing with a recently dislocated finger. Jayawardene's run out in the second innings as he tried to scramble through for his 10 000th Test run highlighted his recent jitters despite a glittering past record.

The stylish right-hander has a highest score of 39 in his last eight Test innings, while Dilshan has one half-century in eight knocks.

"As a batting group we have to take the responsibility, definitely," Dilshan said. "We have to put some runs on the board, no doubt about that."

After two days of tough work at altitude in Pretoria straight after the morale-sapping innings and 81-run loss in the first Test, Sri Lanka decided not to train earlier this week down on the east coast in Durban.

Instead, the Sri Lankans held a series of team meetings and dinners and focused on trying to recover some of their confidence, which has been steadily seeping away since the team's last Test win in July 2010.

Following that victory over India 18 months ago, Sri Lanka drew against the Indians and West Indies and lost to England, Australia and Pakistan. Dilshan has dropped his first three series as captain without winning a match.

"We wanted to give a rest to the players to think about their game plan, how they can lift their game for the next test match. We did some team-building," Dilshan said on Friday of Sri Lanka's buildup to Kingsmead. "Mentally we've discussed a lot of things in the last few days. We've had meetings. Mentally, I think everyone is strong now."

At Centurion, Atapattu said there was only so much Sri Lanka's coaching staff could do to stop the slump.

"Everything we do outside the cricket field, analysing, getting them ready, giving them enough practice is all about the support staff. But at the end of the day, putting runs on the board is up to them," he said.


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