Sri Lanka cut a sorry figure in their World Cup 2019 opener against New Zealand at Cardiff. After batting first on a greenish wicket, they were bundled out for a paltry 136 in just 29.2 overs. To make matters worse, New Zealand chased down the target without the loss of any wicket in 16.1 overs.
It was a demoralizing loss for the Lankans, and it would require an extraordinary effort from the team to regroup and make a comeback in the tournament. Captain Dimuth Karunaratne, who top-scored for the team in the game with an unbeaten 52, is hopeful that his team will learn from their mistakes and ensure they do a better job from here on.
“You can’t go in and hit every ball, you have to stay calm sometimes and give yourself a chance. Once you get to set, you can score,” Dimuth was quoted as saying to the press after the match.
“Our batting was very, very concerning. If you’re losing wickets, you can’t even score 200, or 250. We needed a partnership in the middle. Once we lost the early wicket, we batted well, but we kept losing wickets. That’s the main reason we can’t score big runs in these conditions,” he added.
These words should be noted by the Lankan batting unit who played pretty ordinary cricket in the first game. Most of the batsmen were all at sea to the ball which was seaming around, and there were some casual strokes as well. What must have hurt the Lankan supporters are the rather tame dismissals of their experienced batsmen Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera.
Sri Lanka has been a team on the decline for a while now. Ever since their two stalwarts Mahela Jaywardene and Kumara Sangakkara, along with a bunch of others, bid farewell to the game, Sri Lanka has struggled to find able replacements. The void has not been filled for long and has resulted in Sri Lanka falling steeply across all formats. In ODIs, Sri Lanka is currently ranked No.9 in the ICC Team Rankings. This is not without reason too – they have lost five back-to-back ODI series on the trot from the beginning of 2018 to March 2019.
While Sri Lanka still has some good bowlers in the form of the experienced Lasith Malinga, the talented seamer Suranga Lakmal and the leg-spinner Jeevan Mendis, their batting unit has struggled. Barring a few patches of brilliance here and there – Thisara Perera’s dazzling 140 against New Zealand in January this year is a case in point – they have been mainly off color and inconsistent. The likes of Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, and Dhananjaya de Silva would have to pull up their socks and play with responsibility. In the recent past, these batsmen have been guilty of throwing away their wicket and not showing patience in the middle. A little bit of maturity and calmness from the batsmen can go a long way in helping them.
Captain Dimuth Karunaratne appears to be in good form. Now the old warhorse Angelo Matthews too will have to raise his hands and be counted so that the others can rally around him.
Sri Lanka still has a long way to go to the World Cup 2019. If the batsmen can display grit and gumption, then they might still arrest this slide.