Sri Lankans have shown the willingness to weather the storm © Getty Images
Sri Lankans have shown the willingness to weather the storm © Getty Images

Sri Lanka lost to New Zealand in the first Test of the two-match series at University Oval, Dunedin, by a sizable 122 runs. Yet there were plenty of positives for the inexperienced Sri Lankan side. The defeat in an away game against a strong New Zealand side was perhaps a foregone conclusion, but it was Sri Lanka’s character that was under scrutiny and it is comforting to see that they showed fight. Rishad D’Souza feels Sri Lanka’s performance is an indication that their rebuilding phase is headed in the right direction. Scorecard: New Zealand vs Sri Lanka 2015-16, 1st Test at Dunedin

In the aftermath of Test retirements of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, Sri Lanka were always going to have a big void to fill — a void the size of 24,214 Test runs to put it in figures. The duo had been around in Sri Lankan cricket for over 15 years and was a pillar of their strength. With them gone Sri Lanka looked pale and bland; there was a concern that the team would undergo a prolonged lull in the game’s premier format. But their first away match without the duo on board inspires confidence and alleviates some concern. ALSO READ: Dimuth Karunaratne-Dinesh Chandimal partnership against New Zealand highlights Sri Lanka’s determination to improve

If one goes by the scoreboard of the match, there will an instant notice of the volume of quick runs the Sri Lankan bowlers conceded. There is little doubt that Sri Lanka have a few chinks in that area. But those figures could be a misleading of the magnitude of the concern. It is important to note that New Zealand have a very settled Test batting line up who have got into the habit of piling on big scores not only at home but even in foreign territory.

Yet, the Sri Lankan bowlers had them under the pump every now and then. In the first two sessions of play on Day One the Sri Lankan bowlers were perhaps overwhelmed by the low temperatures and failed to get into any rhythm. However, they got their act together in the final session. In the second innings, New Zealand batted with a positive mindset and it came off. The Sri Lankan bowlers need to fine-tune their lines and lengths just a little bit and then it could look like a threatening unit.

The likes of Dushmantha Chameera, Nuwan Pradeep, and Suranga Lakmal have good pace and extract troubling bounce. A little more consistency in the areas they hit will see them become destructive. The spinners did not have much purchase but bowled well in spurts. Rangana Herath’s experience in the area is a big positive.

It is the batting department that was particularly impressive. They were faced with not only quality fast-bowling from the likes of Trent Boult, Tim Southee, and Neil Wagner, but the constant pressure of trying to play catch up with New Zealand’s total as well. There were periods of play when Sri Lanka looked unflappable.

The 122-run stand between Dinesh Chandimal and Dimuth Karunaratne had the New Zealand bowlers scratching their heads. Chandimal offered great resistance even in the second innings in a bid to try and save the Test. He has shown the willingness to shoulder the responsibility in the new era and displayed an ability to tackle pressure well.

Kusal Mendis, all of 20 years old, scored a 150-ball 46 in the second innings, proving he knows what Test cricket is all about. He even looked sharp in the field and carries promise of evolving into a fantastic Test cricketer.

Sri Lanka still face some problems, most troublesome of which is skipper Angelo Mathews’ decline in form. The debutant Udara Jayasundera scored a mere 4 runs in both innings at the crucial No. 3 spot. And as mentioned earlier the fast bowlers have the ingredients but have to figure out the recipe for constant success. These problems need addressing but the Sri Lankans can take heart that most indicators are pointing the right way.

(Rishad D’Souza, a reporter with CricketCountry, gave up hopes of playing Test cricket after a poor gully-cricket career. He now reports on the sport. You can follow @RDcric on Twitter)