Sri Lanka not underestimating England
England are still smarting from a humiliating 6-1 defeat against Australia and arrived in South Africa late, with no time for a warm-up match and little time to acclimatize to local conditions. Sri Lanka have just beaten South Africa, the tournament favourites and until recently the No. 1 ODI side in the world. They are unquestionably favourites going into Friday's Group B match at the Wanderers but Trevor Bayliss, the Sri Lanka coach, has said his side is "not taking any team lightly" in a tournament where one bad match could cripple the campaign.
"We're happy with the way we played in the first game. Taking on South Africa in South Africa was never going to be an easy task but the boys were up for it," Bayliss said. "We are concentrating on what we do well but know they [England] will come out hard. There is no way we are going to underestimate them. England will move on from that series [against Australia]. It's a series gone by and they will be out to set the record straight."
England and Sri Lanka square off in Johannesburg, a venue where Pakistan beat West Indies in a low-scoring game on a pitch that offered plenty of assistance to the fast bowlers. Tomorrow's game, though, will be played on a different surface. "We are going to play on a fresh wicket against England," Bayliss said. "The one that Pakistan and the West Indies played on offered a bit of bounce and seam. If anything, England will be used to this type of wicket more than us. But a lot of our batsmen enjoy the ball coming on to the bat and we are confident we can play well on any track."
In the past Sri Lanka have always relied on Sanath Jayasuriya to provide acceleration at the start but his indifferent form hasn't been as damaging to the team because of Tillakaratne Dilshan's growth as a flamboyant, attacking opening batsman. He set up the victory against South Africa with an aggressive 106, which helped Sri Lanka achieve a total in excess of 300.
"Dilshan is a positive person as well as a player and has put his hand up in a big way. He cuts and pulls well and once again will enjoy the ball coming onto the bat," Bayliss said. "He is a big improver. His approach, his thinking has changed and improved and he is really playing much smarter cricket in whatever conditions face him. He is in the latter part of his career and it would have been nice to see him do this five years ago."
Sri Lanka weren't one of the favourites at the start of the tournament but their performance against South Africa, where their talented batsmen and varied bowling attack came to the fore, was worthy of champions.
"The last two years we have been pretty inconsistent in ODI cricket and that's because of our high player turnover," Bayliss said. "It hasn't been like that in the Test line-up, where we are quite settled. We have been working toward the 2011 World Cup and are continually narrowing the field of ODI players down. The more we get this right the more consistent we will become. It's just a matter of picking the right players at the right time when they are in form."