Way back in the fairly bleak midwinter, we offered each of the Test nations a mid-season report. Now that the clock is ticking over from the winter of 2011/12 to to the summer season of 2012 (with only the West Indies vs. Australia series outstanding), we thought it would be appropriate to give our verdict on how each side fared as they collected their air miles over the past six months or so.
For no particular reason apart from they are relatively fresh in our minds, we’ll start with England’s most recent opposition.
Tests 6th, ODI 5th, T20 3rd
England (H) – Tests 1-1 (2)
Asia Cup – 4th
Commonwealth Bank Series – Runners up
SA (A) – ODI Lost 3-2 (5), Tests Lost 2-1 (3)
Pak (A) – T20 Lost 1-0 (1), ODI Lost 4-1 (5), Tests Lost 1-0 (3)
After a disappointing series in the UAE, Sri Lanka showed their mettle by completing their first Test match victory in South Africa, largely thanks to a nine-wicket haul for Rangana Herath. Unfortunately their 208-run win fell between two thumping defeats, but that win in Durban was an encouraging finish to the calendar year. That tour marked Tillakaratne Dilshan’s last as captain; his replacement by Mahela Jayawardene (in his second stint as skipper) is generally recognised as a sensible decision, particularly by the England bowlers who toiled away in Galle in March.
The two ODI tournaments that followed the South Africa trip were intriguing: runners-up in the Commonwealth Bank Series after coming back from two defeats and a tie in their first three games to reach the finals, which they then lost 2-1 to the hosts; but in the Asia Cup the performances were rather poor, losing all three matches. Yet of course Sri Lanka finished the winter on a relative high, confounding all of 51allout’s predictions by beating England in Galle.
The trouble for Sri Lanka remains that their leading players are all in their thirties. After being dropped for the Pakistan series, Thilan Samaraweera came back strongly with two hundreds against South Africa. Although Kumar Sangakkara and Dilshan both had a dreadful time against England, they remain the most likely run-scorers alongside the resurgent captain. Chanaka Welegedara (21 wickets at 30.90 over the season) and Herath (39 wickets at 24.97) were by far the leading bowlers in Test matches – though we feel we ought to mention Suranga Lakmal’s 1 wicket at 311.00 in four games – but those two are also both over 30, as is the fabulous Prasanna Jayawardene, who rarely fails to impress us.
Injuries have slowed Angelo Mathews’ progression; he is already the official vice-captain and remains the brightest hope for the future, but he needs to start turning that promise into match-influencing performances. Dinesh Chandimal is probably the other main prospect, though with just three Tests under his belt he’s by no means an automatic pick yet.
Sri Lanka host the World T20 in September; we suspect they’ll have a very good chance of success. But beyond that, how long will their big guns last? The decline post-Muralitharan, Vaas and Malinga has been inevitable, but that could be the tip of the iceberg – in a few years they will presumably be without Dilshan, Sangakkara, Jayawardene and Samaraweera. The end of that particular era may be a while away yet but they only need to look to their mainland rivals to the north to see what can happen when age catches up with several players simultaneously.