November 17, 2011

Two-fifty is a good score under the new Powerplay rules

Large totals are going to be difficult to achieve without good starts. Teams are going to have to rethink their strategies

It was quite pleasing to finally get that first win, considering how we lost the first one-dayer by a big margin. In the Test matches, we played some good cricket but didn't grasp some of the opportunities, and we repeated that in the first ODI. We had to make sure we didn't do that again in the second match, which we did. I think we controlled the game very well.

We had a very good chat after the first one-dayer, particularly about the areas we were found lacking in. We looked at where we didn't focus enough, and how we could get over a quality side like Pakistan. We were not consistent enough in our batting performances, and we didn't pick up early wickets. This time we managed a decent score, Lasith Malinga took early wickets, we controlled the middle overs, and as a good fielding side we knew we could create some run-out chances.

Pakistan's new-ball attack creates a different sort of challenge, so we had to see through that period. At the same time, we've tended to lose too many wickets in the middle order. That's an area we need to look at, because with the new Powerplay rules, I don't think we will see big totals unless a team gets a really good start and works towards 300. With two new balls at either end, the ball is going to do a lot more most of the time, so we need to rethink our strategy with the new ball and the Powerplays. Given the situation and momentum we got, we were maybe 20 runs short in the second game. I think 230-250 would be a par score these days with the new rules.

When I went in to bat it was the 27th over, we had lost a few wickets, and Pakistan were trying to get on top. I told Upul Tharanga not to panic as we had a Powerplay coming up in another six-seven overs. We just needed to settle the ship, get about three or four runs an over and launch during the Powerplay, and that's what we did. it came at the right time for us, at the 36th over, and we scored 48 runs without losing a wicket. Upul lost his wicket shortly after that but we had enough batsmen to come, so I just had to bat through with them and make sure we got to a competitive score.

During the interval we did fancy our chances, but given that Pakistan bat deep, we knew we had to strike early, and we had to cling on to every opportunity. We did take early wickets, which gave us a lot of confidence, but we dropped a catch off Umar Akmal, batted very well.

Lasith definitely adds a different dimension from our Test attack because he is an attacking bowler who takes wickets at different stages of the game, with the new and old ball. Because of him the others become more effective. We have a few guys with a lot of variations who give us options.

We knew in this second ODI that we had to take control in their batting Powerplay, as they still had Shahid Afridi to follow. Giving them just 26 runs and picking up three wickets was crucial. Till then it had been a 50-50 game.

Regarding my batting position at No. 5: we had spoken to the management and selectors about giving opportunities in different ODI series to youngsters. We talked about sandwiching Dinesh Chandimal between myself and Kumar Sangakkara so as to be able to control things better. We need to experiment more with this sort of thing going forward, and if it doesn't work, fall back on other plans. Chandimal is a very talented player, so hopefully we can guide him.

The Test matches were disappointing for me as a batsman, and I've been trying to spend time in the middle in the ODIs. I started well in the first one but couldn't handle the situation very well, as we were losing wickets. Here, I had the opportunity to take the initiative, which I did, so hopefully I can build on this.

Getting to 10,000 runs in both forms of the game has been one of my targets from about three years ago. I try not to think too much about those milestones. After I get to 10,000 I will sit down and set myself other goals to achieve over the next six months.

Former Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene is the country's leading Test run-scorer