India v Sri Lanka, Commonwealth Bank Series, Adelaide February 14, 2012

'Must be ruthless in finishing games off' - Jayawardene

It was a bittersweet night for Sri Lanka.

They were set for a big total at 3 for 168 after 35 overs with the batting Powerplay at hand, but they contrived to end up with only 236. Angelo Mathews, the man who brought Sri Lanka heartbreakingly close in Perth against Australia, let the game slip with two full tosses in the 49th over of the chase, and then pulled it back with two direct-hits. Lasith Malinga bowled these four overs towards the end to keep Sri Lanka alive: four runs in the 39th, a maiden with a run-out in the 41st, five in 45th, and four and wicket in the 48th. Then, in the final over, he failed to make two collections and would have got them run-outs, and went for three over extra cover off the last ball. And spare a thought for the young Dinesh Chandimal. Yet another good innings, but one that ended in a suicidal run-out and short of being the decisive one.

The overall fielding, too, went from being flash to flaccid. There were four direct-hit run-outs, but Kumar Sangakkara dropped a sitter, and then Malinga missed those two run-outs. It can be difficult to decide how to feel after such a night. Mahela Jayawardene wouldn't blame the fielding for sure. "But I think the fielding got us into the game," he said. "The run-outs and the way we stopped at least 20-25 runs on the field, on a hot day, on a bigger ground as well. We didn't give them any easy twos. Only the last few fumbles. That's the thing. Make or break situations. We have got to be ruthless."

Jayawardene said his instinct told him to trust Mathews, and that he will learn a lot from this night. Mathews bowled the 49th over with 24 runs required and Malinga to bowl the last. He slipped up, though, and bowled two full tosses - one of them a no-ball - that went for six and four. "This is how these guys are going to learn," Jayawardene said. "The more games these guys play, they will become better finishers and they will take more responsibility. That's probably why I had my gut feeling, giving the ball to Angie in the 49th over.

"I feel he is ready now to take more responsibility. Apart from those couple of bad balls, I thought he bowled a very, very good over. So let's put them in these situations, let them learn. I am quite happy, we are headed in the right direction, we are close, playing two top teams. Once we get that win we can get come momentum going."

Malinga's bowling is the reason why Sri Lanka not only came back from the dead but were the favourites in the last over. With the ball, Malinga hardly faltered, except - if you were harsh - with the final ball, which Dhoni went deep into his crease to get under. "He [Malinga] bowled beautifully," Jayawardene said. "I mean, you love to have a guy like that in the field. You know he is going to deliver for you. He did in the last three-four overs.

"He changed ends as well. It wasn't a problem for him. He didn't give a single loose ball. He created the pressure for us. Otherwise we probably would have lost in the 46th-47th over. Lasith has been the difference. He has been in these situations, you know. We have lost some matches, he has won some matches for us, no issues with him. He will come back strong."

However, with Malinga, when you have three runs to defend off the last ball, you expect him to pull through. Jayawardene thought so too. "Well, 10 overs to go, they had a run a ball, I am sure they will be disappointed," Jayawardene said. "I was disappointed when we had one ball, four runs. I would back Malinga to finish it off. I am happy with the two points after the amount of mistakes we made in the last few overs and in the entire game. To come back with two points, it is always good. But not a win in our column. Hopefully we get that and some momentum going forward."

Jayawardene felt that India would be more disappointed with the tie, but know his side needs to start winning games. They now need four wins from their last five games, which is a tough ask. "The last bit, we aren't finishing games off, we are making mistakes," he said. "But overall I thought we came back strongly in this game. 230 was not good enough on this surface. After making so many mistakes, I should be happy, but at the same time the way we are making mistakes we need to be a bit more focussed. And try and be ruthless in finishing games off. That's what you expect, especially with these two teams."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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