Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe, only Test, Colombo, 3rd day July 16, 2017

Pitch eased out during Zimbabwe revival - SL coach


Sri Lanka interim coach Nic Pothas: 'Our guys were phenomenal. They did their jobs' © AFP

The soft ball turned less sharply off the pitch, and the Khettarama surface itself has become easier to bat on. So said Sri Lanka's interim head coach Nic Pothas, after Zimbabwe turned a scoreline of 59 for 5 into 252 for 6 by the end of the third day. The unbeaten pair of Sikandar Raza and Malcolm Waller have been most responsible for that turnaround, their partnership currently worth 107.

"You've got to give credit to our players as well as the opposition," Pothas said. "Once the hardness went out of the ball, it obviously became a bit more difficult, and it spun less than yesterday. I thought Raza played really well, as did PJ Moor and Waller.

"But our guys were phenomenal. They did their jobs. I thought the quality of the fielding was superb. It hasn't been easy, but we'll get up again tomorrow morning, try to get a few quick wickets, and then chase a score."

Having conceded a first-innings lead of 10, Sri Lanka are presently looking at a fourth-innings chase north of 300, unless they can dismiss Zimbabwe quickly on the fourth morning. Only three times have teams successfully chased down targets of over 300 in Sri Lanka. One of those occasions had been against Zimbabwe, however - Sri Lanka hunting down 326 at the SSC in 1998.

Sri Lanka will hope that, as Pothas says, the Khettarama pitch is not as treacherous as Rangana Herath predicted it would be, 24 hours prior. Both Pothas and cricket manager Asanka Gurusinha have put Sri Lanka's performances in this Test largely down to conditions.

"The pitch has changed quite a bit. Once the hardness went out of the ball today, it didn't seem like it did as much as yesterday," Pothas said. "Yesterday and day one the ball spun. At the end of the day we're playing in the subcontinent and wickets spin. You just need to come up with plans to score, and how you're going to get wickets. Today it was surprising that it didn't do as much as expected, but we just need to find a way of getting wickets."

With Herath having claimed nine of the 16 Zimbabwe wickets to fall so far, there has been scrutiny about the performance of the remaining bowlers, who have gone through long spells without threatening to take wickets. Pothas, however, defended Sri Lanka's quicks in particular, again ascribing their lack of wickets to conditions.

"The amount of work those guys put in behind the scenes, and the effort they are putting in today with a soft ball, and a wicket that's not conducive to fast bowling - I thought they did a fantastic job on it," he said. "If we're going to keep judging them, we need a bit of perspective. I think under the conditions they did a great job."

Though Sri Lanka have largely fielded well in this Test - Dimuth Karunaratne taking two especially sharp catches at slip in this innings - their fielding over the past few months has come in for stern criticism, particularly after the Champions Trophy defeat to Pakistan. Pothas, however, again defended the side on that front, suggesting they had turned a corner.

"Are we judging them on one hour against Pakistan? I think we need to be careful on that, because in the first innings I thought we fielded phenomenally well. I think in general, we've been pretty harsh on them even when they put in good performances. I don't think they get enough credit for it. When we played against South Africa at The Oval, I thought we fielded brilliantly. We fielded brilliantly against India. Then we had an hour of madness at the end of the Pakistan game, which was unfortunate. Since then we've done some pretty good stuff in the field, so I think we need to be a bit careful with always looking at the negative part of their fielding."

Sri Lanka dropped no fewer than six catches during the ODI series against Zimbabwe, however. Half of those chances were straightforward.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • herons5851233 on July 17, 2017, 14:56 GMT

    It is upto Mendis and Mathews to see SL to safety. Dickwella with his heavy bat won't be able to defend. He will have to go at everything aggressively in typical t20 style.

  • Carlyle on July 17, 2017, 8:24 GMT

    The comments made by Nic Pothas as quoted above are somewhat strange and defensive. In summary SL cricket is in the doldrums to say the very least and the SLC administration must accept responsibility for its current state. Surely it is quite clear that SL cricket needs many other support skills, other than what Cricket Manager Mr. Gurusinghe can offer , to lift themselves out of the mess they are currently in. And no one in SLC is accepting this state of affairs.

  • Alex on July 17, 2017, 7:47 GMT

    Srilanka current state has nothing to do with Gurusingha. He is in recieving end because he is here when srilanka losing. Srilanka problem is ignoring talent for long time. When team is doing good no one experiement with younger players. once good player retire then they experiment and this is what happens. Changes has to be gradually implemented into system. Kumara has right body for fast bowler but poor release and action. He really need some coaching on action so he can be consistent. he is kinda look like yadav but he does have potential. They need aquib javed as bowling coach. You always find amateur (low grade player) as asst coach. Because they always try to master technique and never mastered because they lack physical body. Any technique can be learned immediately if body allows. So good player and bad player is body center of gravity and small hands and fingers. So i never select top player as coach. It would be a failure 95% of time.

  • Ron on July 17, 2017, 6:46 GMT

    Looking at the nightmare that Lanka cricket and fans are living through right now, I fully expect them to roll out the pattas (dead, slow and salt plain flats) when Ind come next. Those wickets were better than a lullaby for the fans and formed a cornerstone of that '952' series (when Sanath hit a triple). That would be a surefire way of putting the fans to sleep for the entirety of the tour.

  • michae8537993 on July 17, 2017, 2:47 GMT

    Sri Lanka have this uncanny ability of making pitches look very flat when they bowl and full of venom when they bat

  • joshua7072265 on July 17, 2017, 2:13 GMT

    @Ron Exactly my thoughts.

  • otherk2133433 on July 17, 2017, 1:45 GMT

    Sri Lankan team is on verge of defeat to Zimbabwe and coach says its good performance. If this is what called good performance, please cancel indian tour and get Afghanistan team, because thats the level coach has been thinking his team is in. This is the guy who has been fielding coach, no wonder fielding has come to this level.

  • Christin on July 17, 2017, 1:20 GMT

    When Virat used same logic for 3rd test against aus. Everyone trolled ash/jaddu. It happends in test cricket. 12overs left for new ball

  • Shaun on July 17, 2017, 0:16 GMT

    Positive approach give always gives positive results, Gurusingha must step down with chairman of selector,we need a positive coach not a so called manager, this so called manager messed up everything in short period of time.we won against Australia test with three spiners and one fast bowler, Danajaya Silva took wickets and runs. Sandakan, Herath,Dilruwan took wickets ,if we had pushpakumara or Sandakan we would have wrapped it up Zimbabwe,it's all about putting pressure , Herath need a support,why we can't bring wicket taking two left arm Orthodox players if we can give chance to two right arm fast bowlers in spinning wkt.Dickwella is not a spin coach behind the wicket ,he is a keeper in national team,he must be controlled his mouth with positive words,Sri Lankan is suffering due to bad management,missed reading pitch and poor selection players for wrong format,saddera, Roshen, pushpakumara, must be given chance but it didn't happen,Three Spiners and one fast bowler is the method .SAD

  • Alex on July 17, 2017, 0:14 GMT

    Pitch did not ease. It played same way all three days. Great batting pitch. New ball had some bounce and herath capitalised it. Without bounce or spin it is difficult for herath to pin the batsman on crease. That said raza had right technique and intension. He take too many risk for Test batsman. he is still in one day mode.Atleast it helped them out of mess they were in. If he learns some temparament or get injured minor way he can make century. He seems exhausted in whole inning. May be first time he bats long in the heat. He should continue and not satisfied with 100 and start throwing his wicket. Zimbabwe need 400 run lead to win. Srilanka issue is they don't have bowlers to bowl this flat pitches. Always some bowler leaking run is not helping chandimal. Even srilanka loses to zimbabwe and india , its not chandimal fault , it is just that srilanka need faster bowlers who can dip the ball so batsman can't guess the length. Too many run leaker in this srilankan team.

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