The aggregate batting average on this Pallekele pitch can only be compared to the 1997 Test at the R Premadasa Stadium, in which Sri Lanka posted a world-record 952 for 6. After seeing his bowlers suffer for three days, Sachin Tendulkar called it unfit for Test cricket. Depending on how much more is scored in this contest, similar criticism awaits.
The Bangladesh pace bowlers, an already endangered breed, have collective figures of 1 for 231, going for 4.20 per over for 55 overs. After making a promising start on the third afternoon, they couldn’t cope with the old ball, and neither did they create any more chances with the second new ball. Their performance is inferior to that of the Sri Lankan pace bowlers’ 6 for 279 at 2.63 per over. But comparing the two pace attacks is also like saying apples are like oranges.
Sri Lanka actually has a fast bowling culture. When they figured out their spin stocks wouldn’t be able to withstand an out-of-form Test team, they tried out a grassy pitch. Although it has now morphed into a sluggish, almost dead surface, at least they tried to rely on their fast bowlers. Bangladesh would never do such a thing in a home game. Even pretending to trusting fast bowlers is a big no-no.
The general lack of commitment towards pace bowling in Bangladesh’s philosophy is the danger ahead of the next Test. They will certainly think about dropping one of their three, bringing in a spinner or a batter; and reverting to type.
But the team management can do better than get disheartened so easily. There is ample evidence that encouraging a particular pace bowling unit can only help Bangladesh in the medium- to long-run.The Pallekele pitch provided very few tools such as pace, bounce, swing, seam or reverse swing to the pace bowlers. Yet there were encouraging glimpses.
Taskin Ahmed created the most chances among the three pace bowlers. He was willing to bend his back even in long spells. Ebadat Hossain too was expensive but for an out-and-out fast bowler who is used in short bursts, it would take a breakthrough Test performance to turn a corner. Despite his hugely underwhelming record, Ebadat seems to have the coaching staff’s confidence. Otherwise he wouldn’t have lasted this long in Bangladesh’s set-up.
Abu Jayed relies heavily on seam and swing, so he won’t always be penetrative on these pitches. He bowled well in Bangladesh’s last Test, in Dhaka where the pitch also lacked everything a fast bowler needs, and he has a few four-wicket hauls in overseas conditions so there’s no point in thinking he can’t do a better job in the next game. Sure, he could have been a lot more accurate, but it is also his eleventh Test.
Bangladesh probably picked a five-man bowling attack exactly for this reason. They may not have expected to make 541 given their indifferent batting form, but they certainly believed that if there was indeed life on this pitch, this pace attack might extract something out of it. Since there’s nothing, it is better not to read too much into their bowling figures just yet.
Taskin, who is playing his first Test in almost four years, admitted that the pitch was difficult for the bowlers, where even good balls are getting punished.
“Bowlers will have a difficult time on such wickets in Test cricket,” Taskin said. “There are few options to create chances. A good ball at times becomes easy to play. A boundary is coming with a slight erring of line or length. We declared on 541. Someone like Lakmal even bowled 36 overs. It would have been better had there been some help for bowlers.
“It is important to bowl consistently at a length in Test cricket. One has to bowl according to the field too, and then surprise them with a bouncer. We have created one or two chances, but it went into a gap. I think it is a very good batting track. We have to be consistent and patient as a bowling unit.”
Taskin added that he hasn’t bowled so many overs in an innings in more than a year, but it is the sort of experience he wants to have, for the future.
“I think I bowled 25 overs in the previous NCL. It is certainly a huge learning curve to bowl in these conditions where one has to concentrate on bowling according to the field. One has to be fit and skillful to survive in these conditions.
“I am giving it my best effort. Hopefully we will have a better day tomorrow. If the second Test is also played in this type of wicket, our bowlers have to be more economical. We have to focus on the batsmen’s weakness,” he said.
If Bangladesh can secure a draw in this game, Sri Lanka may rethink the type of pitch they want in the second Test, at the same venue. They don’t have the option to think about a spin-formula, so either a similar pitch or one that actually aids the pace bowlers are their options.
It should still encourage the Bangladesh team management to give this pace trio another try. Taskin, Jayed and Ebadat certainly should be given the confidence that what they learned from this pitch should work even better in more favourable conditions and surfaces. If batters like Soumya Sarkar and Liton Das can be given so many chances, these bowlers also deserve a longer rope.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84
Glenn Phillips and Daryl Mitchell offered their first New Zealand central contracts
Left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel, though, was omitted from the 20-man list
Glenn Phillips and Daryl Mitchell have been offered their first New Zealand central contracts, for the 2021-22 season. However, Ajaz Patel, who won his first deal last year, has been omitted from the 20-member list.
Phillips had dislodged Ross Taylor to become a permanent member of the T20I side, slotting into the middle order and also pitching in with his quickish offbreaks. He even reeled off New Zealand’s fastest T20I century, off 46 balls, against West Indies, at the Bay Oval in November last year. In all, Phillips played 14 T20Is last summer, hitting 366 runs at an average of 40.66 and strike rate of just under 185.
As for Mitchell, he stepped in for Colin de Grandhomme, who had been sidelined from the entire home summer with injury, and played key roles across formats. He struck his maiden Test and ODI centuries in addition to contributing with the ball.
“I’d like to congratulate all the players offered agreements for the coming season and in particular newcomers Daryl and Glenn,” New Zealand selector Gavin Larsen said in a media release. “Receiving your first national contract is a great moment in any player’s career and both thoroughly deserve their elevation.
“There’s no question Daryl and Glenn took their games to another level over the summer and have added to the growing depth of talent we now enjoy.”
Patel, the left-arm fingerspinner, had missed the start of the last season with a calf injury and although he subsequently made a comeback in domestic cricket, New Zealand opted against rushing him back into Test action on pitches that largely favoured seamers.
Patel, though, is back in the Test squad for the upcoming tour of England, and Larsen indicated that he was “very much” part of the side’s plans in overseas conditions. He is part of a strong spin attack that will also include two other left-arm fingerspinners – Mitchell Santner and the uncapped Rachin Ravindra.
“After such a successful summer in which we used a variety of players across the three formats, there was always going to be a squeeze on for positions and, unfortunately, Ajaz has been a victim of that success,” Larsen said.
“He missed the start of the Test season with his calf injury and was unable to make it back into the side during a summer in which seam and swing dominated. However, we are well aware of Ajaz’s value as a frontline spinner, particularly in overseas conditions and he’s therefore still very much in our thinking going forward.”
Under the terms of NZC’s agreement with the NZCPA (the players’ union), the 20 men offered deals have until May 22 to accept or decline the contracts.
NZ contracts list for 2021-22: Tom Blundell, TrentBoult, Devon Conway, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor,Neil Wagner, Kane Williamson, Will Young
Recent Match Report – Durham vs Worcs Group 1 2021
Hosts recover to post competitive 246 on opening day at Chester-le-Street
Worcestershire 6 for 0 trail Durham 246 (Lees 99, Tongue 5-39) by 240 runs
Worcestershire’s Josh Tongue claimed a five-wicket haul to bowl Durham out for 246 on the opening day of their LV= Insurance County Championship clash at Emirates Riverside.
Tongue was on the mark for the visitors to tear through the Durham middle and lower order with figures of 5 for 39 in his second appearance of the campaign. Alex Lees continued his fine form for the hosts with the bat, falling just short of a deserved century with an innings of 99.
Through Lees’ exploits and an unbeaten 38 from Brydon Carse, the home side worked their way to a competitive total. The Worcestershire openers were faced with a tough three-over spell before bad light brought a premature end to the day with the visitors six without loss.
Worcestershire’s bowlers found their rhythm after inserting the home side. The Durham openers found life tricky against the new ball and Joe Leach, who was rewarded for a fine opening spell when he pinned Will Young lbw with an inswinger. Charlie Morris maintained the pressure for the visitors and removed Scott Borthwick, who edged to Tom Fell at third slip.
Lees and David Bedingham stemmed the tide and saw the home side through to the lunch interval without further damage at 80 for 2. The two players put on fifty for the third wicket, but a loose Bedingham drive allowed Morris to break the stand. Lees was the only batsman that seemed comfortable, and he manoeuvred his way to his third fifty of the season from 145 balls.
Tongue turned the day in favour of the visitors as he ended a promising partnership between Lees and Jack Burnham, removing the latter lbw for 23 before using a well-aimed bouncer to force Ned Eckersley to play on to his stumps.
Lees accelerated the rate of his innings amid the clatter of wickets at the opposite end. He surged his way into the nineties with a fine array of strokes, but was agonisingly caught behind from a wide ball from Leach on 99 on the stroke of tea.
Carse and Mark Wood added valuable runs for the ninth wicket to take Durham past the 200-run mark and their first batting point. However, Tongue wrapped up the innings with two excellent deliveries to skittle Wood and Chris Rushworth to claim his first five-wicket haul of the term.
BAN vs SL 2021 – New ODI captain Kusal Perera wants young Sri Lanka to play ‘fearlessly’ against Bangladesh | Cricket
Fearlessness. If there’s one change Sri Lanka’s new ODI captain Kusal Perera would like to usher in, it is for his team to play as he says he does: completely unafraid.
Perera has been appointed leader of a young squad, which is without several big names, including Angelo Mathews, and now has the opportunity to turn around Sri Lanka’s poor form in the format – the side having slipped to ninth on the ICC rankings. Perera has long been one of the most aggressive batsmen in Sri Lanka’s ranks, and early indications are that he would like the team to embrace that ethos.
“We have to fearless cricket to win matches,” he said, a day after his appointment as captain was made official. “You can’t be fearful about losing. If you’re worried about your place, you aren’t going to give 100%. What I’m going to tell the players is to go and give it everything. If we play fearlessly even when we are practicing, then you will be able to play the same way in a match. That’s what I’ve told the team. If we are fearful, we will fall even further. I’m trying to build a culture where the players have a lot of confidence.”
Perera’s own most notable innings have been aggressive ones. In Tests, his 153 not out off 200 in Durban is now counted among the format’s greatest knocks. In ODIs, he has hit the second-equal fastest half-century – off 17 balls, against Pakistan, in 2015.
“I really like to play fearless cricket personally, and that’s where my success has been. Whenever I’ve played with fear, it hasn’t worked for me. I want everyone else to play like that. You can’t guarantee that you will go right playing this way, but the chances of things going well are greater.”
“But you have to practice well to instill that fearlessness. Because if you are 100% certain about the shot you’re playing, you can play without fear. You need to understand your strengths and weaknesses. Where does the ball need to be for me to hit it? Will I get myself in trouble by hitting there? You need to have that understanding. If you’re a bowler, you need to know which ball can get you a wicket, and which will help you bowl a dot. These things help you play fearlessly. As a fielding unit, you have to carry that same ethos as well, and I have big hopes for the upcoming Bangladesh series about our fielding.”
Although Perera has sparkled briefly, however, his overall record as a batsman is modest. After 96 ODI innings, he averages 31.04, with a strike rate of 92.04. The responsibility of leadership, he hoped, would bring bigger personal scores as well.
“What the selectors told me when they appointed me was that I often get a 50 or a 60 and get out without getting to a 100. I accept that. If I score a hundred, the chances of winning the match go up. You can’t get a 100 every game, but when you get a start, you need to make sure you convert. They expect me to take that responsibility.”
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf
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