Pakistan v Sri Lanka, Asia Cup, Mirpur March 15, 2012

Sri Lanka overworked and imbalanced

They came to the Asia Cup after five games in 10 days in Australia and had their first practice the day of their first game. But it was the loss of their two allrounders that proved too big a blow for Sri Lanka to adjust to
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How often has an away team arrived for a series earlier than the home side? Even as Sri Lanka began their second match of the Asia Cup, England's first warm-up game was underway in Colombo. The warped international schedule has already prompted Sri Lanka to rest some of their Test bowlers for this tournament, to allow them to recover for the England series.

To compound their problems were the injuries to allrounders Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera. It left Sri Lanka utterly imbalanced, and highlighted a long-standing problem for them - the lower-middle order. Not only do Mathews and Perera provide them viable bowling options, but their completely contrasting batting styles provide just what Sri Lanka have been searching for. Mathews brings the cool head and malleable game to orchestrate the latter stages of the innings, while Perera's brute force allows him to play the impact innings, as he recently showed in Kimberley and, to a lesser extent, in Hobart.

For a couple of years, Sri Lanka's batting had five permanent members - Upul Tharanga, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Mathews - and they hunted for candidates to fill the remaining two slots. Many auditions were provided, but most of the candidates fluffed them. None of Thilina Kandamby, Chamara Silva, Thilan Samaraweera and Chamara Kapugedera proved consistent enough.

During Dilshan's troubled time as captain last year, among the most heartening things was the emergence of youngsters Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne as batsmen who could flourish at the international level. With them, and the pair of Mathews and Perera, Sri Lanka finally seemed to have covered the blemishes in the batting.

The injuries, though, meant Sri Lanka were again looking for two lower-middle order players. In the absence of other allrounders, Sri Lanka deployed Tharanga at No. 6, an unfamiliar position where he has done a decent job, with three half-centuries in four matches though he is yet to convince as a finisher.

The other spot remained. With Dilshan doing a stellar job with the ball towards the end of the Commonwealth Bank series, Sri Lanka trusted him to deliver in the Asia Cup as well, and decided to gamble in the first match by using specialist batsman Chamara Kapugedera at No. 7. That left them with exactly five bowlers (including Dilshan) and no room to manoeuvre if any of them had an off day. The tactic backfired quite spectacularly, with Sri Lanka turning to Kapugedera's rarely used medium-pacers to try and rein in a free-scoring India. And worse, when it was his turn to bat, with Sri Lanka in the sort of situation they picked the extra batsman for - needing about eight an over for the final 12 - Kapugedera picked up a golden duck.

That prompted Sri Lanka to go in for the extra bowling option against Pakistan, dropping Kapugedera and pushing Farveez Maharoof to No. 7. While Maharoof using to be quite a handy bat earlier in his career, his batting has regressed in recent times and No. 7 is at least a position too high for him. Players from all four teams have said during this tournament that batting becomes easier under lights, but Sri Lanka's decision to go with the additional bowling option also meant they were likely to bat first on winning the toss.

Sri Lanka's biggest mistake in the game may have been the reckless top-order batting, but Sangakkara and Tharanga had dragged them back to more solid ground. Even when Tharanga fell in the 36th over, some support at the other end would have been enough for Sangakkara to lift Sri Lanka to a more competitive total. Instead, with the wickets tumbling at the other end, Sangakkara was forced to attempt some big hits and was dismissed in the 43rd over, and Sri Lanka in the 46th.

One-hundred-and-eighty-eight proved too small a total for their bowlers to defend, virtually ending Sri Lanka's Asia Cup campaign.

After the spirit and verve Sri Lanka showed in the CB series, these were a couple of flat performances in Mirpur. When your first chance to train is an hour before your first game of the tournament, and when key players need rest or are injured, you are bound to trip up in a compressed event like the Asia Cup where there are few chances for a comeback.

At least the players have the consolation of having finally been paid their outstanding salaries.

Edited by Dustin Silgardo

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ---lasitha--- on March 17, 2012, 5:58 GMT

    @priyantha gunaratna & sarath1948 well said i was hoping to write the samething and saw your comments. SAMARAWEERA is the ideal batsman for the 6th position ,he has got the required tempramaent technique, and experience so that chandi and thiri can bat inbetween samarae and sanaga. with out experienced players in da lower middle over , no matter how much talented they are ,, they will collpse( get rid of dilshan if youll want to give youngsters a chance)

    PLZZZ BRING IN THE Mr RELIABLE --''THILAN SAMARAWEERA'' IF WWE ARE TO GET A SOLID LINE UP dilshan/... mahela sanaga/chandi chandi/sanag thirimanne SAMARAWEERA mathews maharoof/thisara/jeewen malinga kule ...

  • dummy4fb on March 17, 2012, 3:47 GMT

    Gularan - the fact that the side you say does not belong in 'this' league beat Australia 4-3 in Australia, something the current world champions could not dream of doing. ( Now don't bring the 2008 CB Series here - that was looong ago) The current world champs got beaten by Bangla. (Admins: publish my comment unless we are to understand a certain bias exists on this site).

  • salman_0902 on March 16, 2012, 13:30 GMT

    It will not be acecpted that Pakstan is a superior side than Sri lanka? what has changed Pakistan beat them in a full series just a few months ago. Sri could harldy win one match and that was also because of the fielding. dont you think its a trend that Pakistan is winning and Sri lanka losing not because of losing a couple of players. or there can be other excuses for their losses in the hands of Pakistan.

  • gularan on March 16, 2012, 12:28 GMT

    Sri Lanka what a pathetic display in the first two matches of the asia cup. When they play the Bangladeshis they will roar like the Pseudo lions they are. Gosh what a priceless set of chimps. Go play with your own kind---- Kenya ,Holland, Canada,Ireland etc etc. You do not belong in this league.

  • stormy16 on March 16, 2012, 9:24 GMT

    Agreed SL's battles to get a balanced middle order is largely dependent on Mathews and its time Mathews stopped bowling and only played as a batsman. He has now missed both the WC final and triangular final in Aus due to injury - after playing the whole series. Its a catch 22 but I would rather have him on the park than not. Also I dont believe the Tharanga at #6 experiment will work, specially if you have Thiriman after him - they can both get stuck and ironically they are both openers. The selections should make sense - you cant take 5 potential openers (Dilshan, Tharanga, Lahiru, Mahela, Sanga) and then wonder why your middle order is a problem. Ironically Mahela's success at the top is causing the issue and for the next games, SL should decied if Mahela is opening then pick a middle order batsman for that role.

  • 9ST9 on March 16, 2012, 7:53 GMT

    @sarath1948 - true that. always felt it would have been better not to rush the seniors in the team after that gruelling series' in SA and AUS - instead expose a few youngsters to the Asia cup and make sure the seniors are properly rested for the England Tests. Such a 'second-string' side that toured Zimbabwe in 2010 was instrumental in un earthing Chandimals potential as a batsman. I think this was a wasted opportunity.

  • dummy4fb on March 16, 2012, 6:19 GMT

    ohh so all of a sudden all hav started caring about SL being overworked and making that an excuse behind their lame performances in Asia cup; but doesnt the same rule apply to team India ? They are Overworked more than any cricket team at this time point. They hav been playing continuous cricket since past year .But no one has ever takent his intoconsiderration but instead bashed India mercilessely every time ; not even the BCCI and selectors . I m nt saying that Overwork shud be an excuse for poor performance but rule shud be the same for each country

  • classicvijay on March 16, 2012, 4:53 GMT

    What a poor show from lankans....I still dont understand y they always abt Indian team. Indians have a very good record overseas, especially against Srilankans, which they couldnt digest.

    India's record wins outside Asia, all around the world.

    WC 1983 - England Benson Hedges world series 1985 - Australia Natwest trophy - England T20 WC 2007 - SA CB series 2008 - Australia.

    Srilankans have won only one major tournament outside Asia..that is Emirates Cup in England under Atapattu captaincy.

    Srilankan fans always tell one phrase..."We are always with the team", but they should re-phrase as "We are always with the losing team." :)

    Lankans are the real chokers...how many finals they have lost, we cant count.

    They dont have the right to speak about the Indian team, they are far behind.

  • Charindra on March 16, 2012, 4:42 GMT

    This might be a blessing in disguise. If we reached the finals we would have landed in SL and driven straight to Galle for the 1st test. The additional rest might help them refocus and beat England. (which we MUST do. No excuses there!)

  • dummy4fb on March 16, 2012, 4:36 GMT

    Will somebody tell the top order SL batsman not to lift the ball! Then again they have been very successful in the past playing those shots. I guess You can not expect to win all the games all the time, when you are playing world class teams. You win some and you lose some. That's the name of the game.

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