World Cup 2015: Sri Lanka March 16, 2015

Jayawardene praises Malinga's commitment

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Mahela Jayawardene has praised Lasith Malinga's commitment to returning to form after a five-month layoff, as Sri Lanka prepare for their quarter-final against South Africa on Wednesday.

Malinga had been Sri Lanka's most penetrative bowler in the group stage. Although he collected figures of 0 for 84 from the curtain-raiser against New Zealand, he has since taken 11 wickets at an average of 28.27. He was particularly impressive against Australia, as he claimed 2 for 59 from his 10 overs, even as the team conceded 376.

Malinga had had an operation on his left ankle - which bears a considerable load during his delivery stride - in September. His first competitive cricket upon return were the warm-up matches ahead of the World Cup.

"Lasith's put in a lot of effort over the last three or four weeks to get into rhythm," Jayawardene said. "You have to give him a lot of credit, having had an operation on his ankle. He hasn't bowled for four months, and it takes a lot for a guy to come back for a big tournament. The biggest thing for him was to mentally be ready to land that foot 100% knowing that there was no pain. Once he did that he's bowling really well.

"I think the Australia game and the England game before that, his finishing has been pretty good, his movement has been good, the variations have come good. When that happens the rest of the bowling unit picks themselves up around Lasith. When Lasith's a bit down, everyone else is a bit down as well, so the last few games have been good. You don't want to peak too early. You want to play your best cricket at the business end."

Jayawardene hit a match-winning hundred against Afghanistan after his team had slipped to 18 for 3, then 51 for 4 chasing 233, but has since had limited opportunities to spend time in the middle. He was not required in the matches against Bangladesh and England, in which Sri Lanka only lost one wicket each, but then got himself run out against Australia for 19, and miscued an expansive shot against Scotland, early in his innings.

"The top-order guys have been batting really well, which is a good thing for us," Jayawardene said. "But if they miss out, then obviously the onus is back on me to make sure that we control things. That's how it is. In big tournaments and big games, we've been playing some good cricket together. We just need to make sure we hold our nerve."

Sri Lanka's recent history of holding their nerve in vital games jars with South Africa's reputation for cracking under pressure, but Jayawardene said Sri Lanka could not bank on the opposition falling apart again. His team would instead aim to approach the quarter-final as just another match, he said.

"It's all about us playing good cricket and you can't play good cricket if you put yourself under pressure. It hampers your thinking processes. It's important that we play good cricket and whatever the end result, we can then talk about it afterwards. But if we start thinking about winning, winning, winning, it's going to be tough for them to go out and perform. That's how we have been playing for a long time and it's helped. There is no other secret to it. It's about guys handling that pressure much better than others.

"What we have spoken to the guys is that we are playing South Africa. They are a quality team and have got some fantastic players. We need to play assuming that they are going to bring their A game. If they fail to do that, then it is on their heads, but we can't talk about that."

Jayawardene also said Kumar Sangakkara's bumper crop of hundreds in the tournament was another manifestation of his consistency over a career. As Sangakkara approaches ODI retirement, he appears set to become the first Sri Lanka batsman to finish with an ODI average above 40.

"Apart from probably the first three years in his career, and maybe a year in between, Sanga has been very consistent. He is just enjoying himself. We know that we are not going to play cricket anymore. It's not a burden for us - it is about going out and enjoying ourselves. I don't think Sanga would have played to get four centuries in a row, but the occasions came about. I think it is due to the attitude and the commitment the guy has."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jay on March 17, 2015, 16:25 GMT

    1996 -2015 Comparison did not talk about the balling. No Vass, Murali, Aravinda, Jayasuria, Darmasena......

  • Dummy4 on March 17, 2015, 10:05 GMT

    Probably a score around 260, that is if Sri Lanka bat first, would be enough against this overrated SA team. Can't wait to see SA get humiliated in real time this time.

  • abc on March 17, 2015, 9:44 GMT

    I don't know why there is so much fuss about these quarters. We all know deep down that this is OZ's world cup. They just had one off day in swinging conditions with best bowling attack in the tournament, still they stretched them till last wicket. Btw Oz has the best batting lineup not Ind/SA. Ind will have rude awakening in semi though they will have tough match with BAN. Sanga & Mahela thanks for all the entertainment you provided over the years. #Legends

  • d on March 17, 2015, 8:17 GMT

    hope SL don't underestimate de cock if he is playing tomorrow. SL always have the habit of underestimate out of form players and getting them back to form.not just AB, Amla or stayn they should watch out for rest of them. sanga ,dilshan in form rest them need to fire this time .Specially from mahela and mathews. if they drop catches they have no chance againt SA

  • cricketgreats on March 17, 2015, 6:59 GMT

    malinga needs to perform if sl wants to progress further in this tournament........ need those toe crushing yorkers and support from Co.,,,,,,,,,,,,or else it's going to be one sided affair

  • Dummy4 on March 17, 2015, 6:58 GMT

    Since Lahiru is not in good form to stick his place on top order Janitha Perera should be given a chance since he has a talent that he can destruct any kind of bowling attacks for his day and i like his batting style which is similar to Sanath

  • Dummy4 on March 17, 2015, 5:54 GMT

    MY TEAM: Tharanga,Dilshan,Sanga,Mahela,Lahiru,Kusal,Mthews, Kula,Herath,Chameera,Malinga

  • Tharindu on March 17, 2015, 5:41 GMT

    Dilshan, Thirimanna, Sangakkara, Mahela, Mathews, Kusal, Sachithra, Kulasekara, Rangana, Malinga, Chameera. My team for the game. We cannot wait for that once in a blue moon occasion when Thisara fires. His bowling is also in poor form. We need to have someone who delivers what he promises and that's one reason why Sachithra should take his place. Other reason is because we cannot expect Rangana to do his best in this game because he is coming after an injury in his spinning finger. He might injure it again. Hence Sachithra should be in the team to back up Herath.

  • siddharth on March 17, 2015, 5:38 GMT

    Srilankan fans never get realistic , after tomorrow's match when SA will thrash them will make them be little realistic(hopefully!

  • Dummy4 on March 17, 2015, 5:21 GMT

    Lahiru is not in a good form but there is no player to replace to him because Upul Tharanaga is not a fast batsman.He has the technique but not enough as an open batsman.It's good to see Kusal is back.but he must learn how to play like a skilled player because he is trying to get 4 or 6 for every ball.Lasith we need him back..Also I personally think Chameera the new fast bowler playing good. Thisara is a big hitter.We need him too..As we can see, every match opposite team scored 250+ runs and we need to take care of that.We need good bowling side... Indian fans plz don't think India is the the best team in WC..Most runs..Sanga..Most Centuries ...Sanga..Most fours..Sanga....I can't see any Indian players here...So be with it..Even SL beats India in the last ICC T20 World Cup....So don't dream..May be Bangaladesh will beat indians..because they have the skills.....RSA is the one toughest team in this WC than INDIA...We hope we can have a great battle..Good Luck SL and RSA..!!

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