Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara’s miserable England tour continued on Thursday and the team’s batting coach said lack of preparation may have contributed to their problems.
The duo, Sri Lanka’s highest-scoring batsmen in test history, fell for single figure scores at The Rose Bowl as Sri Lanka slumped to 81 for four on a rain-affected first day.
Sangakkara, standing in as captain for the injured Tillakaratne Dilshan, has managed just 65 runs in five innings at an average of just 13. Jayawardene has made 97 runs in five innings at 19.40.
“Their form comes as a bit of a surprise,” former Sri Lanka opener Marvan Atapattu told a news conference. “Everybody at home would like to see Sanga and Mahela getting runs.”
Jayawardene has racked up 9,624 runs at an average of 52.87 in his 119-test career and is out on his own as Sri Lanka’s record scorer. The only other Sri Lankan to pass 8,000 is Sangakkara, who averages 55.76 from 97 matches.
Both players chose to miss Sri Lanka’s first tour match against Middlesex, leaving themselves only one four-day match against England Lions to adjust to the conditions after playing five weeks of the Indian Premier League.
Jayawardene was sold for $1.4 million in the IPL auction and leaving that event for England 10 days sooner could have cost him over $200,000.
Their decision also raised eyebrows as Sri Lanka had not played a test outside Asia for more than three years before the current series.
Atapattu said it was key to allow time to get accustomed to English conditions and to the longer form of the game after playing Twenty20. “When you’re in England the first thing that should happen is the adjustment,” Atapattu added. “People coming from 50-over and then 20-over versions does not really help.
“It takes a bit of time, and you’re in a country where your technique is going to be tested. It doesn’t happen overnight; you need some time.
“This is why players need to get to a place like England, play a few practice games, get runs and get into test level because that’s where you get the best of the bowlers.” Sangakkara’s dismissal at The Rose Bowl caused him to angrily smash his bat into the ground as he chased a wide James Anderson ball only to be caught by wicketkeeper Matt Prior.
“Sangakkara will be pretty unhappy seeing the replay of the shot he played,” Atapattu said. “Mahela got a beauty,” referring to a short Chris Tremlett ball which he also edged to Prior.