Coach backs legspinner Hasaranga to give Bangladesh tough time in fourth innings
Sri Lanka are still 29 runs behind Bangladesh’s first-innings total, but they think – or rather they hope – that they can still win the first Test, with one day left to play.
The Pallekele surface continued to be abominably flat through large parts of day four, which Dimuth Karunaratne and Dhananjaya de Silva batted out without losing a wicket. The hosts have seven wickets in hand, though, so will likely aim to quickly establish a lead on the fifth morning before trying to skittle the opposition out.
“We’re certainly thinking about winning,” said head coach Mickey Arthur after stumps on day four. “That’s how we want to play our cricket. That’s such an important culture to inculcate in a dressing room. We’re not here to make up the numbers.
“I said to the guys in the West Indies [during their previous Test series] that, first of all, we want to be a team that’s hard to beat before we become a winning team, because that’s kind of the cycle. I think we are a team that’s hard to beat. We played some hard-nosed cricket in the West Indies on some very flat surfaces. We’ll show some intent tomorrow and who knows where the day goes? It is very flat, but pressure’s a funny thing. If we get ourselves enough in front and leave ourselves enough overs, who knows what could happen?”
Sri Lanka’s attack is short-staffed for their second-innings victory push, though. Seamer Lahiru Kumara has picked up a hamstring strain and is out of the series. And they have played only one specialist spinner in legspinner Wanindu Hasaranga. Playing only his fifth Test, Hasaranga has so far seemed much more suited to limited-overs bowling, than a serious wicket-taker in red-ball cricket.
“There will be a burst from the fast bowlers with the new ball, but if we’re going to get close tomorrow, it’s going to be Wanindu Hasaranga that’s going to get us close,” Arthur said. “I don’t want to put too much pressure, I just think he’s such a fantastic player.”
Arthur did concede, though, that Sri Lanka’s plan to defeat Bangladesh on a green, seaming surface had perhaps been ill-conceived, as those kinds of surfaces are rarely seen on the island. Sri Lanka had expected much more help for the quicks on the first two days than has been evident from this pitch.
“Maybe it was a little bit naive of me in terms of strategy – this is my first Test in Pallekele – in understanding the surface. We wanted to beat Bangladesh with a bit of pace and bounce, but it’s just been extremely flat. We’re going to have to reassess that. We’re going to have to look at how we go for that second Test. We’ll have a discussion about that Test tomorrow, we’ll let this Test happen first.”
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf