March 1, 2011

'Chasing at Premadasa no longer difficult'

Mahela Jayawardene on the defeat to Pakistan, chasing under lights at the Premadasa and Sri Lanka's middle-order options

We always knew the game against Pakistan was going to be a good contest. It was going to be tough for the quick bowlers on that track, especially during the day when it was flat and not doing much. We weren't disciplined enough in the execution of our plans in the first 10 to 15 overs. We gave away quite a few easy boundaries, so that is an area we will definitely address.

Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq are two experienced players and they built the Pakistan innings after the loss of three wickets. They steadied the innings, didn't take too many risks and set it up nicely for the big hitters down the order. But our spinners did well and the seamers came back strongly in the latter part of the innings, not allowing those big hitters to flourish.

Where we lost it was with the bat. Losing those three wickets in quick time - Tillakaratne Dilshan, myself and Thilan Samaraweera for 8 - probably cost us. Shahid Afridi bowled really well during that middle period, taking four wickets, and that spell proved crucial. We tried to build the innings through Chamara Silva and Kumar Sangakkara, and the lower order had a good run, but we left it too late. With the required-rate creeping over 10, it was going to be tough but in the end we fell short by just 11 runs, so there were some positives we could take out from the game.

Chasing under lights at the Premadasa is no longer that difficult. The floodlights were one of the reasons teams struggled to chase at night at the ground, as they couldn't pick the ball on occasion. Since the revamp, with new lights and a re-laid track, things have certainly eased out. Earlier, teams used to have difficulty chasing even 220 but now the toss is not going to play a major factor unless the track deteriorates drastically. But, nevertheless, to chase under lights, once a team puts a score up on the board, there's going to be pressure. That's the only scenario to be worried about but the other elements are not a factor anymore.

We're only going to get batting-friendly pitches this tournament. The only way going forward will be to try and control the batsmen. To do that, you need to have attacking options in your armoury. The Australians are playing to their strengths, using pace as a means of attack. They might flourish in certain conditions, in others they might not. The important thing is to have bowlers who can pick up wickets, particularly when the tracks are flat and it's easy to score 300. We're hoping for Lasith Malinga to get back into his stride, with that we'll have enough bowling options in the side to pick up wickets.

With our batting, we're trying to establish a rhythm. Chamara Silva missed out in the first game because he had a family bereavement a few days earlier, and we gave him a week off. He's been a big part of the middle order and was part of the last World Cup, that experience is vital for us going forward. It's good to have him back and score some runs against Pakistan. Angelo Mathews - when and how we're going to use him in the batting line-up - is also going to be a key factor. Samaraweera brings solidity to our middle order. There is, of course, Chamara Kapugedera, and there's the option of him coming in depending on whom we're playing and what kind of tactics we use for different opposition. It's a settled middle order - it hasn't really had much opportunity because the top order has been getting a bulk of the runs. I do hope that when they get that opportunity, they'll come to the party and have a good workout.

Against Kenya, we just need to play to our strengths. We did that against Canada as well. That'll be the main focus, rather than worry about anything else.

Mahela Jayawardene is former captain of Sri Lanka