A generally quiet Galle town exploded in to a celebrating mood when the country’s national team recorded a thumping 229-run-win over the visiting Australians at the Galle International Cricket Stadium.
It was a Saturday (August 6) and local fans who gathered at the match venue wished for two things; the match to end in their favour and the cricket played out there to continue till at least the fourth day. The country’s national cricket team granted the former, but an opposition inexperienced in playing in Asian conditions didn’t help realize the latter.
The match ended inside three days thus cutting short the fun for spectators. But there was some consolation for the officials who hosted the match, which attracted as many 9000 spectators on the third day. The three days of cricket helped Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) raise a turnover of rupees 4.1 million, which showed net profit of 2.9 million once accounts were balanced. These statistics were provided to the media by SLC President Thilanga Sumathipala at a press briefing held on August 10 at the cricket board headquarters in Colombo.
This is a time when the entire world is concentrating on the global sporting event Olympics, an event where a nation like Sri Lanka generally struggles to get noticed. This is why a sport like cricket is so important for the islanders because this is perhaps the only discipline at which Sri Lanka can match top teams in the world. The outcome of the second Test was largely possible because of the approach the host team had towards the game. If Australia’s approach to the game was all about aiming to bat for long periods and being patient, the Sri Lankans obtained better results by playing their cricket with a lot of confidence from the first ball.
Skipper Mathews (54) and Kusal Mendis (86) were the cynosure of all eyes when the host team batted bravely in the first innings and made 281 all out. The home team made 237 in their second innings and bowled out the opposition twice for scores of 106 and 183 in the first and second innings respectively. Sri Lanka had an unlikely hero in Dilruwan Perera who bagged 10 wickets and chipped in with a useful half century. He was named Man of the Match.
Another factor that has helped the host team fox the Aussies during this series is the unavailability of information regarding players like Mendis and Lakshan Sandakelum. The opposition finds it very hard to plan ahead against players who are unknown quantity. The host team will however not enjoy this advantage any further. The Aussies match their playing skills with the prowess they possess in the research and analyzing of sport.
Sandakelum is the emerging bowler in this squad, but there was a surprise awaiting the Aussies. The old guard Rangana Herath and the in-form Dilruwan Perera produced a super combination when it came to bowling out the Australians. With these two bowlers delivering, Sandakelum got less opportunities to come on and bowl, something which the Aussies would have certainly expected.
As much as celebrations would continue in the Sri Lankan camp after the host team bagged the Warne-Murali Trophy with one more Test to spare, focus should never be taken off the Aussies. The cricketers from down under are fighting to retain their number one position in Test cricket. They might be able to save face if they pull off a surprise win the third and final Test scheduled to begin in Colombo on August 13.
The bat and ball game, sunshine and the sandy beaches are three things which make cricket tours to an island nation like Sri Lanka all the more exciting. Compared to folks travelling to other venues, spectators in Galle showed their loyalty to the national team which is playing under a banner that reads; one team, one nation. All who travelled to Galle to catch the cricket are sure to carry their sunburn marks for a couple of days more. But getting those patches was all the more worthwhile. They also reveal that you too were there when history in cricket was rewritten. For the record Sri Lanka recorded a series win over Australia on home soil after 17 years and it happened in Galle!