Zero, four and six are the only numbers the Sri Lankan top order batsman have seemed to care about on this Sri Lanka tour of Australia. Their approach could have been a reminder to a binary sequence out of the Matrix films. They only looked for boundaries and nothing in-between. The ability to rotate the strike is always mentioned when discussing players who want to make bigger innings in the longer formats. This is true. Rotating the strike put pressure back on bowlers.
But in T20 cricket things have been quite different. The idea of solely hitting boundaries once would have been anathema to crickets, but one need look no further than the West Indies team that won the 2014 T20 World Cup to see that it can work in this format. But can is the operative word there. To play like that, a team has to go all in. No half-empty glasses allowed. Teams also need a particular sort of player.
That the West Indies side had big hitters like Kieron Pollard, Chris Gayle, Carlos Brathwaite or Darren Sammy who could clear the boundary with ease. Who did clear the boundary with ease. Sri Lanka? Well not so much. They certainly didn’t manage it in the first T20I at the SCG. One might have expected them to know their own limitations and come up with a well drilled game plan before they arrived. But they didn’t seemed to have done.
Then came the second T20’s second innings which showed progression on Sri Lanka’s part. It looked as though they learnt from their mistakes. An encouraging sign, with only Josh Hazlewood’s brilliance in the super costing them a real chance at victory. It now looks like a false dawn. In difficult conditions in Canberra in the third game, the top order looked liked they were desperate to get back to pavilion. So far in this series, it has been one step forward, and far more than two back for the Sri Lankan batting unit.
It’s not as if Sri Lankan top orders have historically found it tough in Australian conditions in T20Is. What about Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kusal Perera and Mahela Jayawardene? They thrived by finding ways to score even when things weren’t going their way. In the second T20, the batsman were wafting forced shots through the air while the ball had already carried to the keeper during the same sequence. The Australians found the pitch harder to bat on than the first T20 but manufactured ramp shots, sweeps and scoops which worked successfully.
Brain-fades aside, there are pieces of the puzzle in place with one key component missing: intelligence. Hopefully we see more of that and more of Russel Arnold on commentary. He’s at least been a shining light in another disappointing series away from home for Sri Lanka.
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