Commonwealth Bank Series / News

Australia v Sri Lanka, CB Series, Perth

Stranded Sangakkara deserves help

Peter English

February 15, 2008

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The disappointing finish was made worse by Sangakkara walking off as the last man out with an unfulfilling 80 © Getty Images
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Sri Lanka's batsmen have let down their most experienced performers again. One of the most frustrating aspects of their entertaining all-round play is that there is no support for their main men. Unless a couple out of Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara can produce significant innings there is currently no hope of a match-winning rally.

The visitors should have beaten Australia in Perth, but their middle and lower orders went missing when they were desperately needed. Lasith Malinga was stunning in shutting down Australia despite Adam Gilchrist's superb farewell century, and a total that looked like reaching 300 became a distinctly manageable 236. Not for Sri Lanka, not even when they had 71 by the 11th over. They were dragged to 173 by Sangakkara.

One problem was they lost three wickets in a frenetic opening to the second innings. Another was Sangakkara was isolated like a lighthouse while the bulbs of his team-mates shattered regularly. Despite the loss of Jayasuriya, Dilshan and Jayawardene, they should not have been defeated so easily that they gave up a bonus point. The disappointing finish was made worse by Sangakkara walking off as the last man out with an unfulfilling 80. He looked so lonely.

The only one who tried hard to offer support was Chamara Kapugedera, but his 26 off 60 balls was more an act of resistance than hope. Sangakkara, whose pace had slowed as he tried to rebuild from 4 for 76, needed someone to rotate the strike instead of taking up balls as the pressure rose. Even a 43 like the one Michael Clarke reached at a strike-rate of 62 would have been welcomed. Sangakkara wasn't as lucky as Gilchrist.

Chamara Silva went to a big stroke and an Andrew Symonds catch that was the best of the season or another contentious one depending on your geography. During the Test series in November Silva had shown his loose approach and suffered each time, a problem that has not been fixed. And once the batsmen recognised as specialists departed, the bowlers, which start too early with Farveez Maharoof at No. 7, quickly followed. Sri Lanka don't have anyone to provide cement in the middle like Michael Hussey or Mahendra Singh Dhoni do for their outfits.

The performance continued Australia's current hex over Sri Lanka, which is so strong they can beat them even when their minds are full of other matters. This was Australia's sixth one-day win in a row over Mahela Jayawardene's side and it was a costly miss for the visitors.

With all the discussions over the Indian Premier League, the tour of Pakistan, the players' public problems with Cricket Australia and the farewell to Gilchrist, Australia had to fit in a game. Gilchrist retained his focus magnificently along with the low-key bowlers Hopes, Johnson, Bracken and Hogg, but there was a general confusion over much of the performance.

Another wake-up call has been sounded despite their move to the top of the tri-series table and Ricky Ponting admitted the batting and fielding were areas to improve. For the second time in two matches they were dismissed before the 50 overs were up and a collapse of 8 for 65 at the WACA followed their slip for 159 in the loss to India.

Gilchrist was superb and fully deserved the grand goodbye on his home ground, which ended in the Man-of-the-Match award. He scored half his team's runs while benefiting from the extra time openers receive in ODIs. Sangakkara came in just 3.1 overs after Sri Lanka's run-chase began, but the inability of his batting team-mates to chip in regularly made his job a lot harder.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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