Very few teams over the years have come to Sri Lanka, and dominated a Test against the hosts, leave alone a series. Australia's 3-0 triumph over the Lankans a few years back was more of an exception rather than a rule. The ongoing South Africa-Sri Lanka series is just one Test old, but there have been enough indications that the Lankans are going to be in for tough times during the course of the series. Despite the conditions being in their favour, the Lankans struggled as a team at Galle and, in the end, it wasn’t surprising that they were completely outplayed by the Proteas. Considering the emphatic defeat, Lanka will find it difficult to pick themselves up to the coming Tests.
Right from the time Lanka stepped on to the field for the opening Test, they were the second best team in the match. There were moments when they dominated the game, but that was more a case of catching up. The hosts lost a great chance to put South Africa under pressure when they allowed the visitors to recover from 290 for 6 to 455. Had the Lankans bowlers restricted the Proteas to something in the region of 350, they could have competed better. But, once the South Africans recovered to cross 450, Lanka were always going to be the team under pressure.
The hosts could still have made a match of it had they put up a better batting performance. But, the hosts couldn't stand up to the hostile South African bowlers even in familiar territory. The fact that none of the Lankan batsmen got a hundred was symptomatic of their batting failure. Upul Tharanga and skipper Angelo Mathews got fighting 80s, but Sri Lanka clearly needed a lot more. The story was similar in the second innings, if anything only worse. Sangakkara was the only man who stood up to the task, as he has done so often for Lanka over the years even as the rest gave up without a fight. It was no surprise that Mathews lambasted the team following the team's Galle disaster.
With the old guard on its way out, it is crucial that the young but relatively experienced players in the side take charge for Sri Lanka. This is after all a significant transitional phase in the team with Mahela Jayawardene having announced his retirement, and Sangakkara's career is also on its last legs irrespective of his stupendous form. But the youngsters haven't risen to the occasion. After a bright start to his international career, Dinesh Chandimal's fortunes have nosedived rather quickly. Also, there is no doubting Lahiru Thirimanne's ability, but he is definitely testing the selectors' patience.
Bowling is an even bigger worry for Sri Lanka. Even since the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan, they have been significantly less dominant at home even while being reasonably competent. In recent Tests, Rangana Herath has done a commendable job, but he wasn't in his elements at Galle, as a result of which the team suffered in a big way. The pace bowling department is also a cause of concern with no Lasith Malinga around. Suranga Lakmal and Shaminda Eranga's weaknesses were definitely exposed at Galle. Lot of headaches for Lanka then as they chalk the path for a fightback.
--By A Cricket Analyst