SL v Ban, Group A, Melbourne February 25, 2015

Mathews stands by tireless Malinga

Angelo Mathews - "If you watch Malinga in the nets, he's the one who is working the hardest. He bowls for hours so he can get his rhythm back" © AFP

While teams such as Australia and New Zealand have arrived at the World Cup on a cloud of form, and intent to dominate the competition, Sri Lanka have chosen a less ambitious approach. The favourites speak of establishing winning momentum, and rolling forward like a "juggernaut", but even back in November, Sri Lanka had simply set their sights on "peaking at the right time".

This is perhaps, in part, a reflection of how they have been successful in past tournaments; Sri Lanka have rarely been the outstanding team of the group stages, yet have been in five major finals since 2007. But in recent weeks, it also stems from an acceptance of the indifferent form of their attack.

For no one is this more true than Lasith Malinga. He had been ordinary in the tournament opener against New Zealand, though he did rebound to take three wickets against Afghanistan. Lower on speed, and less fit than he has been in the past, however, Malinga is desperate to rediscover his menace, Angelo Mathews said.

"If you watch Malinga in the nets, he's the one who is working the hardest," Mathews said. "He bowls for hours so he can get his rhythm back. He tries very hard to do his best for the team. We all know how good a bowler he is, because the things he does when in form are immense. I think he will come good."

Malinga has been the pivot of Sri Lanka's limited-overs attack since Muttiah Muralitharan's retirement, and as such, his return to form is paramount to the campaign. However, the remaining bowlers have also largely been inconsistent during their time in the Antipodes, and Mathews said confidence is the key to regaining the attack's lost potency.

"When you're in the World Cup, the bowlers can't look too much into the technical side, but I think you've just got to give them confidence," he said. "Lasith is back after injuries and bowling after a few months. He's trying to get everything right so that at the back end of the series, when it comes to the quarterfinal, that is the time you've got to be at your peak."

Both the attack and the top order may be more comfortable in Australia than they have been in New Zealand over the past six weeks. As they prepare to play Bangladesh at the MCG, Sri Lanka will be aware of their strong recent record in the country. Since 2010, they have won an ODI series against Australia, tied another one, and progressed to the end of a Commonwealth Bank tri-series - losing that three-match finals series 2-1.

"Wherever you play, you've got to play your best cricket, and I think we haven't played our best cricket yet," Mathews said. "Regardless of the pitches and conditions, if we play our unique type of cricket, we can win against any team. The Australian pitches offer a little more to the bowlers and the bounce is very true. So as batters when you get set, you can go for a big one."

Sri Lanka's fielding has also been mediocre over the past six weeks. Straightforward chances were shelled throughout the series against New Zealand, and in the tournament opener in Christchurch. Mathews said the energy Sri Lanka have brought to their fielding had been disappointing.

"The attitude on the field has to be improved, so that's what we are concentrating on," he said. "We've worked hard on our fielding, which is something the Sri Lanka team is usually well known for. My team is unique. We don't want to follow any other team in this tournament. But if we can bring our A-game tomorrow, that would be great."

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

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