Champions Trophy 2017 May 17, 2017

Ford hopes for flat batting tracks in England


Sri Lanka have struck in excess of 300 in two of their last five ODI innings © Associated Press

Sri Lanka may have often hankered for spin on foreign pitches, and the island may still the home of low-scoring one dayers, but this time around, they would love some nice, flat batting tracks at the Champions Trophy, if English groundstaff don't mind.

That, at least, is the view of coach Graham Ford, who, in sizing up Sri Lanka's attributes, has settled on batting as the team's foremost strength. Sri Lanka have lost six of their last seven completed ODIs, but did breach 300 in two of their five most recent innings.

"I think in one-day cricket, we have some exceptional strokemakers, and some really talented batsmen," Ford said ahead of their departure for the UK. "That's why if the batting pitches are good, I think we can really put bowling attacks under pressure. Perhaps with some of our younger players who are still learning to construct innings, the challenge is to make sure we're in a position to put attacks under a lot of pressure at the end. But if you do construct an innings well, we have some of the best ball-strikers in world cricket. They can really take a bowling attack down."

Ford said turning tracks - which Sri Lanka have historically prospered on, both home and away - are not necessarily going to be helpful. Sri Lanka begin their campaign against South Africa at The Oval, before playing India at the same venue a few days later.

"I'm not actually sure we want it to spin much, because Imran Tahir is a real weapon for South Africa, and R Ashwin and the Indian spinners will be a factor," Ford said. "We're looking for good cricket wickets - good one-day pitches."

Having coached Surrey before taking the job with Sri Lanka, The Oval is a ground Ford knows well. Though no team has passed 300 at the venue so far in this year's Royal London One Day Cup, scores have gradually increased as the summer has worn on.

"From what I've seen, it's been a particularly dry start to the summer, and the scores have been really high. That should suit us. If you look at the scores of the domestic one-day competition on now in England, the scores have been really high. Hopefully, those are the kinds of pitches that we can perform well on. You never know with the weather - a wet spell could come in. But for now, it's all looking really promising."

On the bowling front, Sri Lanka are desperate for Lasith Malinga to return in good health and fitness, in order to stem the leakage of runs in the slog overs, which has been a feature of their limited-overs cricket over the past two years. Malinga is the only player in the squad who did not take part in the recent training camp at Pallekele, with the board having reasoned that he was better off gaining match practice at the IPL.

"If we can get the old guard of Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara firing with their skills at the end of the innings, that probably takes 20-25 runs off the opposition score as well," Ford said. "It's a combination of finishing the innings off really well with the ball, and of course, setting ourselves up well with the bat."

Ford was philosophical about Sri Lanka's prospects at the tournament. While he believed his team capable of lifting the trophy, he acknowledged Sri Lanka would be underdogs.

"The Champions Trophy is a big ask, and recent results will tell you that. But the guys have shown talent, and they've worked extremely hard trying to improve their cricket. I think with us being a team that's improving all the time, we've certainly got a chance of upsetting one of the other nations. It is a huge challenge, but one that we're looking forward to."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • azam403390880 on May 26, 2017, 1:57 GMT

    1-dickwella 2-Tharanga 3-Mendis 4-Chandimal 5-kapugedara 6-Mathews 7-pererra 8-Prasanna 9-kulasekera 10-Malinga 11-Sandakan. this squad for south Africa and Lakmal replace for Sandakan against India and Pakistan because they played well against spinners

  • yasama7868944 on May 22, 2017, 5:34 GMT

    @THEREALMVP*_* - Don't mind that. It was not intended to be won, rather to test things out as they please. Hopefully, they'll stick to basics and come strong in the real contest.

  • amindh6043107 on May 22, 2017, 0:01 GMT

    So heads up that we've just lost to the scottish. They mauled our bowlers and chased 280 with ease

  • Weeramuni on May 20, 2017, 22:45 GMT

    I pretty sure SL is very strong team now Bz they find the plateform now .. better players for better place .. SL diginitly going to Final ..

  • kas on May 20, 2017, 17:02 GMT

    By judging each teams performance and form, SA will cruise past SL and Pak. India will minnow bash SL and Pak, so the mini tournament within the CT will be not to end up being bottom for pak sl. It would be a tough call to say who is favourite when sl plays pak, coz both teams are very ordinary and nothing special about them anyway. Just feel sorry for WI and Zim and Afg, two out of these three definitely deserved a place in the coming CT! Wish Sl or Pak was in the other group, would've been free points for all.

  • Dileep on May 20, 2017, 11:09 GMT

    Jadeja was one of the stars of the last Champions trophy in England which India won, India are one of the best teams in the competition and their bowling is not as weak as it used to be - SL are in a tough group. We have a better chance against Pakistan. On their day SL could beat 2/3 teams in their group which is needed to qualify for semi-finals. I really don't think T Perera is good enough to bat at number 7, need a specialist batsman at 7 otherwise there is a real chance of collapse. As for Malinga he has a well defined role - new ball swing and bowling at the death which he has been practicing at IPL and been improving through the competition after a rusty start (understandable)

  • rustyryan on May 20, 2017, 5:38 GMT

    In last CT, the match between India and SL was happened in a damp and skiddy pitch and India came on top of that match.So I don't understand when some of the fellow feedbackers talk about India's ability to play on tough pitches. In fact, India was the only asian team in the last WC Semi Finals. Winning a world cup in 2007, Champions Trophy winner and went into Semis in Australia. I guess, this Indian team is far better in terms of adaptability than other asian teams. The fans of the neighbouring country are so deluded that whenever India win, its a flat track. Maybe they should check out How did both Pak and SL play in the last WC QF.

  •   Cricinfouser on May 19, 2017, 17:08 GMT

    We have to tip over SA somehow. We have a very good chance of winning against India and Pakistan but Pakistan can be difficult to manage on their day. Ashwin and Jadeja are both played dismally outside Asia. I hope our batmen go after these bowlers. I think Dickwella/Mathews/KP has to fire with Kusal Mendis as well.

  • chami on May 19, 2017, 16:26 GMT

    guys IPL grounds are over 10 meters smaller than ODI grounds.

  • Chatty on May 19, 2017, 15:19 GMT

    I think if SL are going to depend on Malinga to carry the bowling, it will be a real gamble. Malinga was hit for yet another six by Sunil Narine. That six by Narine was the 16th conceded by Malinga this IPL season. He had not conceded more than 9 sixes in any of the previous IPL seasons. And that included the last couple of years when he was playing at around 80%. I hope the SL management recognizes this. Otherwise, they may be in for a rude shock!

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