Friday, 7 February 2014

The difference between the two

Bangladesh v Sri Lanka. Day Four. 2nd Test. Chittagong

I'm not a big fan of Kumar Sangakkara. I don't adore him. He's not my favourite cricketer. I don't think he's the best batsman to play for Sri Lanka, let alone the world, and I don't think I'd ever adore him to the levels of Aravinda de Silva or Mahela Jayawardane. But that is a mere personal opinion. It takes nothing away from the Great Batsman that Kumar Sangakkara is.

He's got Test centuries in all the test playing countries, except for the West Indies which is due to the fact that he's only played 4 tests there, and the test tour to the West Indies was cancelled by the SLC when Sangakkara was in prime form, in mid 2013. Sangakkara holds the highest career average for any cricketer who has played over 20 tests since the 1990s. He's got hundreds against Australia in Australia, South Africa in South Africa when both teams were #1 in the world. He's saved Sri Lanka from defeat in green tops of Southampton to dust bowls in Abu Dhabi, and he's driven them to victory in breezy Wellington and in scorching Lahore. So, after killing the Namien Lion, slaying the Hydra, shooting down the Stymphalian birds, capturing the Cretan Bull, and all the rest of it, isn't it fair for Hercules to feast at the top of Mount Olympus?

To all those who undermine Sangakkara's knocks in Bangladesh, one must only look at Sanga's overall record to realize that such comments are only a bunch of balderdash. If the Multi-Barrel missle launcher is designed to wipe out entire cities at long range, it takes no Einstien to figure out what happens if you fire it at the rioters in front of the camp. Sangakkara merely feasted on a friendly bowling attack and a placid pitch. True, if Sanga had gone on to make 401* and had broken Lara's record, it would have been a shame for Lara, who scored that against the likes of Harmisson, Hoggard, Flintoff and Jones, the very attack that decimated Australia in the following year. But what is Sanga to do? Get out cheaply, because it's only Bangladesh and it's not fair to score runs against them? Get to 50 and throw it away, and have those very same critics asking him questions about Sanga's ability being tested by the mediocre Bangla bowlers? Sanga has scored runs all over the world, against the toughest attacks, on the toughest pitches in the toughest situations and he has earned a right to have a day off against Bangladesh and score a few easy hundreds.

Another interesting fact is considering what would have happened to Sri Lanka had Sanga not got the runs he did. Sri Lanka's first innings total would have been 268, meaning they would have conceded a first innings lead of 158. Then, if the second innings hundred is taken off, Sri Lanka would be 200 for 4, leading by 42 runs, with 6 wickets in hand, and 90 overs left. If that doesn't emphasize how important Sangakkara's innings were in this test, I don't know what will. At a time when Sri Lanka possess a bowling attack weak enough to lose to Bangladesh, Sangakkara's 319* and 105 was the saving grace for them, without which Sri Lanka would be staring down their 4th test series draw after winning the first one and taking the lead. There are times I would argue why I don't consider Sangakkara to be the best batsman to have played for Sri Lanka, but then there are times like these, when I know I cannot win that argument.

Sangakkara's hunger for runs is considered one of his best traits.
Besides Sanga's heroics, Sri Lanka's weaknesses were once again on show. Mendis and Dilruwan bowled until the batsmen gave up and threw their wickets away. Lakmal looked good in patches, but looked as if he needed a rest, having bowled over 150 overs since the first test in Abu Dhabi. Nuwan Pradeep was once again a deer in headlights. The lapses in the field didn't help either. After a certain point it started getting a bit slap-stick, Kithruwan dropping a catch, then catching one two balls later only for it to be called No-Ball. Dimuth dropped a skier at the dying moments of the day and it all but sealed the comedy relief that was much needed for a test match that was thus far a bit boring.

Chandimal also sneaked in a century, to the dismay of many. Some because it was sort of a Shane Watson effort; of not playing well the whole series and then getting a useless 100 on the last innings on the verge of being dropped, to seal his place for three more tests, and some because it delayed the declaration by about 10 overs and left the Bangladeshis less than 100 overs to bat out for a draw. Both reasons are arguable. Chandimal's 100 steadied the innings with Sanga's, for at one stage Sri Lanka were 78/3, which made his innings a bit more worthy than useless. It also ensured that Sri Lanka wasn't in a position to lose, specially after their debacle in Sharjah, not too long ago. Although he could have scored a bit quicker once Sanga had got out, Chandimal's innings has put Sri Lanka to a position from where they can only win, and by doing so, he has probably sealed his place in the XI for the 1st Test at Lord's, ahead of Kithruwan Vithanage, given that Prasanna Jayawardane is fit for the tour.

That leaves Sri Lanka with 90 overs to wrap Bangladesh out, which seems highly improbable with this bowling line up and the flatness of the wicket, but considering the fact that Bangladesh are also known to press the panic button, like they did in the first test, a result for Sri Lanka is still a possibility. It is also the final 90 overs for Nuwan Pradeep to gain some confidence ahead of the England series and for Lakmal to be up to par with his consistency, but for Dilruwan and Mendis, it should be a matter of proving that they are worthy of selection, as neither are expected to play test cricket until Sri Lanka host South Africa for 3 tests in July of 2015.

With a draw looming ahead, a dull day of cricket awaits. For Sri Lanka's sake, let's hope that would not be the case. For now though, it is time for everyone to look back an enjoy a tale of two innings from Sanga, which clearly was the difference between the two teams in this test.

Over the years, he's made it hard for anyone not to like him. Even me.

Catch you at the end of it all,

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