Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pitching it up:Muttiah Muralitharan International Stadium (Pallekele)

by Balanced Sports' columnist Ben Roberts

Can you imagine the heart ache as the relevant cricketing administrators sat down and tried to decide what they would name the new cricket stadium in Kandy? Potentially to name it after the bowler who by far and away leads the cricketing world in bowling statistics was the easiest decision anyone has ever made!

The stadium at Pallekele is only two years old and has only held one test thus far in its history. Its building was as a replacement for the formerly used Asigiriya Stadium in Kandy, and was in time for use at the 2011 World Cup. It was welcomed into the fold of this tournament by Ross Taylor of New Zealand, who in the stadiums first match of the tournament stroked a brilliant 131 not out off 124 balls, with 55 runs from his final 13 balls faced. Taylor earned for his efforts from the New Zealand commentary team the nickname 'The Pallekele Plunderer' (just a great name when said with a kiwi accent!).
courtesy: imagegossips.com

The only test match to have been hosted at the stadium was ruined by rain, with only the West Indian opponents of Sri Lanka able to bat. The cricketing world lost any ability to judge how the surface would play as the rain fell, but further that the West Indians, content to draw the series, elected to face over 100 overs in scoring 300 for 8. Kumar Sangakarra later described this as the worst test series he had been involved with.

We have little to go on therefore as we assess the relevant merits of the conditions in Kandy when Australia visits for the stadiums second test. The primarily limited over pedigree of the stadium points toward a flat wicket, with plenty of runs. In the test between Sri Lanka and the West Indies the spinners outperformed the paceman easily by bowling tight, and we can expect this to be the plan of both sides based on the first test at Galle.

The moist atmosphere of the oft rained on southern Sri Lankan city has proved a challenge for pitch preparation, and may give those quicker bowlers moving the ball in the air, just kissing the surface, some hope. Again it will be expected of the batsmen that they exert some self control and patience, batting first again will most likely be the way to go in setting the game up.

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