Jack -in- the- box Sri Lanka can do it for Matthews – by Trevine Rodrigo – Melbourne (eLanka Sports editor)
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Inconsistent and a predictably jack-in-the-box Sri Lanka go into the second Test against Pakistan keeping their fans in hopeful limbo of a turnaround of fortunes similar to their performance against Australia.
A shaky start to the first Test, then, a recovery of sorts to keep Pakistan under a less than impressive 222, did nothing to justify their elation and expected win, after setting the visitors what seemed like an imposing target which counted for nothing in the end.
Pakistan chased down a record fourth innings target with consummate ease to leave the home side embarrassed much like the Aussies did in their first Test.
Dimuth Karunaratne and his team mates must realize by now that against the best teams in the world, nothing, including home ground advantage counts for much these days.
Climatic conditions which had a tactical advantage years ago has been nullified to an extent thanks to the IPL and other T20 competitions which draws players from around the world helping them adjust to different playing surfaces and how to cope with the weather.
Pakistan has no such issues here being a sub continental team, and Sri Lanka must keep in mind that beating them will test their mettle to its full extent. Holding their nerve and toughing it out unwaveringly is the acid test for ascendency.
While the visitors have their backs up after a stellar effort in the first Test Sri Lanka will be looking for consistency from a batting line up that has been hit and miss.
Sri Lanka’s driving motivation will be to honour Angelo Matthews who celebrates his 100th Test in a stellar career for his country. Matthews has travelled a long and winding road in his nine year journey and has battled injury and other hurdles, but he has been the only consistent player during his time after the former stars departed.
The 35- year -old said in an interview acknowledging his achievements, that he is not done with international cricket in all formats and he hopes to continue for a few more years. “I’m still motivated and hungry to play on for my country”. Age is only but a number. England’s Jimmy Anderson at 40 years and still the best of his craft is my motivator”, he said.
He told interviewers he will be having his fingers crossed in this Test to give Sri Lanka something special to mark his milestone.
Pakistan skipper Barbar Azam leads from the front in this respect and under his watch has resurrected Pakistan cricket to the top tier.
Sri Lanka who is in similar transition need to work harder and re-establish their former status. And current form suggests they are on track to achieve this.
All the distraction around them with the country’s political and financial woes must have some impact on the team. But they have bravely soldiered on in their quest of bringing some pride back to the country through sport. Their efforts and mental toughness must indeed be lauded under the circumstances.
Galle, and it unpredictable surfaces, will hold the key to who will come away with the spoils in what is expected to be another epic battle.