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Spin dominates, while West Indies batters continue to falter

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Last updated on 04 Dec 2021 | 02:52 AM
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Spin dominates, while West Indies batters continue to falter

Here are some of the major takeaways from the two-match Test series between Sri Lanka and West Indies

Dimuth Karunaratne and Co. gave their outgoing head coach Mickey Arthur a fitting farewell by smashing West Indies 2-0 in the Test series, which got over on Friday (November 3). The Kraigg Brathwaite-led side showed glimpses of brilliance but were never consistent enough to challenge Sri Lanka at home. West Indies failed to click as a unit and ended up getting hammered by 187 and 164 runs respectively. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka did what they mostly do at home, dominate. So, here are some of the major takeaways from the two-match series:

Karunaratne, Dhananjaya continue to dominate

Karunaratne and Dhananjaya de Silva have been in phenomenal form in red-ball cricket for quite some time now. The Sri Lankan skipper has scored the most runs as an opener since 2020 and has done that at an average of close to 60. His form in 2021 has been even better - 902 runs at 69.38 in 13 innings. The left-hander missed out on equalling the world record of seven consecutive 50-plus scores in this format but still ended the series as the highest run-getter. Karunaratne managed scores of 147 and 83 in the first Test and that set-up the series perfectly for Sri Lanka.

There’s a reason why they call Dhananjaya Sri Lanka’s crisis-man. The right-handed middle-order batter scored a fifty in the first innings of the opening Test but could only manage scores of 1 and 2 in his next two innings. West Indies had their nose slightly ahead when he walked in to bat in the second innings, but what followed was a near-perfect knock from Dhananjaya that completely batted Brathwaite’s men out of the contest. The 30-year-old crafted an unbeaten 262-ball 155 and that served as the final nail in the coffin for West Indies. Dhananjaya has transformed himself into a different beast and has an impeccable record in this format since 2020. He delivers when his team needs him the most. In fact, Sri Lanka have four batters averaging more than 50 in this time frame and that’s why they have had little trouble in the batting department.    

What happens when Thirimanne comes back?

Lahiru Thirimanne was in superb form before he made himself unavailable for the Test series against West Indies. The opening combination of Thirimanne and Karunaratne has been serving well for Sri Lanka since the start of this year. In fact, Sri Lankan openers have operated at an average of 55.1 this year, which is the best amongst all the teams. With Thirimanne out of the series, Sri Lanka promoted Pathum Nissanka up the order and the 23-year-old ended up scoring three fifties in four innings. Nissanka batted at No. 6 in his first three Tests but has the technique to survive in the top-four. And, it won’t come as a surprise if we see him batting at 3 or 4 once Thirimanne makes his return.  

What next for Hope, Chandimal?

It’s frustrating to see someone like Dinesh Chandimal and Shai Hope not play to their full potential. Let’s talk about Chandimal first. The 32-year-old started the series with a score of 45 but could only manage 14 in the next three innings. This has been the problem with Chandimal, he has never been consistent. The middle-order batter has played 13 Tests since 2019 but averages less than 23, with just three 50-plus scores in his last 23 innings. However, he might hold on to his spot till Niroshan Dickwella comes back. The latter is currently serving a ban for breaching the bio-bubble in England in July this year.  

Meanwhile, Hope has been even worse. The 28-year-old has a solid technique and averages over 52 in ODIs but hasn’t been able to cement his place in the Test set-up. The right-hander averages less than 19 in his last 22 Tests and only played against Sri Lanka because Jeremy Solozano suffered a concussion in the first Test. This was a perfect opportunity for Hope to revive his Test career but could only manage 51 runs in four innings. And, this could very well be the end of the road for Hope in red-ball cricket. However, it’s not just Hope, most of the West Indies batters have been horrible in this format and that’s why they haven’t been able to compete with other nations.  

WI batters fail once again

West Indies have been very inconsistent in the batting department and that’s the major reason why they often end up finding themselves on the back foot. They managed totals of 230, 160, 253 and 132 against Sri Lanka and only three of their batters could touch the 50-run mark in an innings, compared to two centuries and six fifties from the Sri Lankan batters. West Indies suffered a collapse in each of the four innings and could never put enough pressure on the hosts. In fact, West Indies have the worst batting average and balls per wicket in this format since 2020.

Nkrumah Bonner, who is the only West Indies batter to average more than 40 since 2020, was West Indies’ most consistent batter in the series. The right-hander was dismissed for just 1 in the first innings of the first Test but then got scores of 68*, 35 and 44. Jermaine Blackwood and Brathwaite too got starts in the couple of innings but couldn’t convert them into anything substantial. Hope was horrible with the bat and so was Roston Chase who averages just over 20 since 2018. Most of the West Indies batters struggle to bat for a long duration, and it was pretty visible in the series. In Bonner and Kyle Mayers, West Indies have got two middle-order batters who could do that, but they would need a lot more from their experienced players.  

Spin, spin, spin…

Spinners took 67 of the 73 wickets to fall in the series - most ever in a two-match Test series. As expected, the likes of Ramesh Mendis, Lasith Embuldeniya, Praveen Jayawickrama, Jomel Warrican, Veerasammy Permaul and Chase were all amongst wickets, while the seamers hardly got anything. Just four wickets in 111.4 overs to be precise. Mendis, who claimed 18 wickets at 15.27, was named player of the series. The allrounder is no mug with the bat either, considering he has a triple century in first-class cricket. If he can chip in with the bat at this level, Mendis could provide Sri Lanka that balance even in overseas conditions. Meanwhile, playing his first Test since June 2015, Permaul too was impressive and claimed eight wickets in the second Test. Unlike their batting department, West Indies’ bowling unit looks quite sorted.

(All numbers till November 3, 2021)

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