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One of Sri Lanka's finest ODI shows

Sri Lanka's top-order batsmen made it a memorable CB Series for the side, even though they lost in the finals

S Rajesh

March 9, 2012

Comments: 6 | Text size: A | A

Tillakaratne Dilshan drives through the off side, India v Sri Lanka, CB Series, 2nd ODI, Perth, February 8, 2012
Tillakaratne Dilshan became the first batsman from the subcontinent to score 500-plus runs in an ODI series in Australia © Getty Images

Sri Lanka missed out on a golden opportunity to shrug off the runners-up tag and take the winners' trophy in a meaningful tournament when they messed up what should have been a very gettable target at the Adelaide Oval, but that shouldn't take away from what has been a terrific tournament for Mahela Jayawardene and his team. They inflicted four defeats on a buoyant Australian side that was coming off a comprehensive thrashing of India in the Test series, and they did it on Australian pitches, which is a huge reason to celebrate for an outfit that has often struggled in conditions it is not used to. The margins of those results further indicate which was the better team: Sri Lanka's three losses were by 5, 15 and 16 runs; of their four wins, two were by whopping margins - by eight wickets with 101 balls to spare in Sydney, and by as many wickets with 34 balls remaining in the second final.

In all this, the most encouraging aspect has been the performance of their batsmen. Often in the past Sri Lanka's batsmen have looked pretty and racked up plenty of runs in home conditions, only to come a cropper when pitches have more bounce and offer some assistance to quick bowling. That pattern, though, changed somewhat when they twice successfully chased targets of 300 or more in South Africa, but their consistency in Australia was more impressive, for these weren't dead rubbers, and the momentum was maintained over many more matches, under a punishing schedule, and often when some of their top players were unavailable due to injury.

This is only the third time that Sri Lanka have won five matches in a series outside Asia against the top teams (excluding Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, and the other non-Test-playing sides). The two previous instances were in the 2006 NatWest Series, when they blanked England 5-0, and in the 2007 World Cup, when they reached the final and beat five top sides along the way. Arguably, though, the intensity in this tournament was greater than in the 2007 World Cup, given that there were no easy matches against lesser teams to offer respite.

Sri Lanka's best ODI series outside Asia
Series Matches* Wins/ Losses Bat ave Run rate Bowl ave Econ rate
NatWest Series, 2006 5 5/ 0 52.96 6.45 32.02 5.61
World Cup, 2007 8 5/ 3 33.67 5.13 28.85 4.90
CB Series, 2011-12 11 5/ 5 35.53 5.37 31.97 5.31
* Excl those against B'desh, Zim, and the other non-Test-playing sides

Coming back to Sri Lanka's batting display, the most impressive aspect was the form displayed by their top four. Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and the immensely promising Dinesh Chandimal took on Australia's pace attack with a gusto that was refreshing to watch after the limp display of India's top order.

Dilshan scored 513 runs in 11 innings at 51.30, and a strike rate of almost 84. It was the first time a batsman from the subcontinent scored 500-plus runs in a one-day tournament in Australia: the highest for India is VVS Laxman's 443 in 2003-04, while Pakistan's highest is 395, by Ijaz Ahmed in 1996-97. (Click here for the full list.)

Apart from Dilshan, there were others who contributed handsomely too. Chandimal averaged 52.37 for his 419 runs, while Sangakkara and Jayawardene both scored over 400 runs at 40-plus averages. In fact, four of the top six aggregates by Sri Lankan batsmen in ODI series outside Asia were achieved on this Australian visit, which shows just how exceptional their batting display was.

Most runs scored* by a Sri Lankan against top teams in a series outside Asia
Batsman Series Matches Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Tillakaratne Dilshan CB Series, 2011-12 11 513 51.30 83.96 2/ 1
Kumar Sangakkara VB Series, 2005-06 11 469 42.63 75.76 0/ 5
Mahela Jayawardene VB Series, 2005-06 11 425 38.63 89.47 0/ 6
Kumar Sangakkara CB Series, 2011-12 11 420 42.00 86.95 1/ 2
Dinesh Chandimal CB Series, 2011-12 11 419 52.37 81.20 0/ 4
Mahela Jayawardene CB Series, 2011-12 11 406 40.60 89.23 0/ 3
* Runs scored against the top sides only

Only twice has Sri Lanka's top four had a higher average in a series outside Asia. Their best was in the NatWest Series in England, when Jayawardene averaged over 100, with Upul Tharanga and Sanath Jayasuriya averaging over 64. Each of those three batsmen scored two hundreds in that five-match series. The other instance was in a triangular series in Morocco in 2002, when Aravinda de Silva and Jayasuriya were the top performers. Both those series, though, consisted of only five matches for Sri Lanka; in Australia, they maintained their form over a much longer period.

Best performance by Sri Lanka's top four against top teams in series outside Asia
Series Matches Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
NatWest Series 2006 5 1151 71.93 96.56 6/ 4
Morocco Cup, 2002 5 830 46.11 79.96 0/ 5
CB Series, 2011-12 11 1689 43.30 84.61 3/ 10
SL in New Zealand, 2006-07 5 591 39.40 86.78 1/ 4
SL in South Africa, 2011-12 5 727 38.26 81.59 1/ 5
World Cup, 2007 8 1140 38.00 77.44 2/ 10
All stats against the top teams only

And a comparison of the top four for the three teams in this CB Series shows how far ahead Sri Lanka's top order was compared to the other two teams. Compared to Sri Lanka's average of 43.30, Australia's top four managed only 33.54, and India's 31.22. India's strike rate was marginally higher, but that was almost entirely due to that stunning run-chase against Sri Lanka in Hobart.

The top four of the three teams in the CB Series
Team Matches Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Sri Lanka 11 1689 43.30 84.61 3/ 10
Australia 11 1476 33.54 79.61 4/ 8
India 8 968 31.22 86.42 1/ 5

A key reason for Sri Lanka's success in the tournament was the opening combination, or rather, the move to push Jayawardene up the order at the expense of Tharanga. In the first three games, when Tharanga opened with Dilshan, the opening partnerships yielded 12, 11 and 0. After that, once Jayawardene teamed up with Dilshan, the opening partnership flowered, and that immediately put pressure on the opposition bowlers and gave the Sri Lankan middle order a healthy platform to build on. In their eight innings together, they added 524 runs at an average of 64.50 and a run rate of 6.03 runs per over. Their record was well clear of the other opening combinations in the series.

In fact, Dilshan's elevation to the top of the order has significantly improved his numbers too. Before he moved to the top, he averaged just 29.06 in 129 innings; since the beginning of 2009, when he started opening the batting, he has averaged 44.35 in 82 innings, with 11 centuries. No other opener has scored as many runs or centuries during this period.

Most runs as opener in ODIs since Jan 2009
Batsman ODIs Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Tillakaratne Dilshan 81 3409 44.85 93.49 11/ 12
Shane Watson 65 2839 48.94 94.22 5/ 18
Hashim Amla 47 2513 57.11 91.14 8/ 17
Upul Tharanga 62 2223 39.00 77.10 6/ 13
Virender Sehwag 49 1966 42.73 124.03 6/ 4
Andrew Strauss 49 1966 40.95 87.68 4/ 13
Tamim Iqbal 62 1853 30.37 85.07 2/ 11
Sachin Tendulkar 41 1832 49.51 94.53 6/ 5

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter

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Posted by johnathonjosephs on (March 12, 2012, 1:52 GMT)

@emancipator your logic is good, but to compare jaysuriya with sehwag is ridiculous. Sehwag does get runs, but does not that get big 100 as much as Jayasuriya did. Jayasuriya hit or missed, ie, he either got a big score or got out for a single digit. Sehwag's style ironically suits him better in Tests

Posted by 9ST9 on (March 10, 2012, 5:41 GMT)

The biggest positive is the emergence of Chandimal - the boy is here to stay.

Posted by Emancipator007 on (March 10, 2012, 2:57 GMT)

Dilshan (along with Samaraweera in Tests)has been correcting his non-subcontinent records of late with great intent both in Tests (193 in England) and superb consecutive series ODI performances in the tougher ODI arenas of SA and OZ. Though, it must also be mentioned that SL barely used to get 2 Tests in OZ,SA and Eng sporadically at best which barely gave time for players to acclimatize and perform (feel sorry that incandescent Aravinda was not allowed to parade his talents more in such places). Meanwhile, Sehwag detractors need to see that Viru has been doing VERY WELL in ODIs too for past 2-3 years to go with that PHENOM SR. Srikanth, Jayasuriya,Kalu and Greatbatch were impact ODI players who played decisive momentum shifting innings in chases/while setting targets and were backed by captains Kapil,Arjuna,Crowe cos of the impact value of such players rather than their averages and big 100s (though Jaya did get big 100s frequently). Dhoni has failed to understand that about Viru.

Posted by AadeeSL on (March 9, 2012, 17:27 GMT)

No matter you win 1000 matches consecutively, what people remember is the FINALS. 2 World cups + 1 Asia cup + Now CB Final.You can happy at least it's nice to be there in the finals.But winning minor ones and loosing the most important ones this easily,can not be accepted.232 was a reachable score with 7 batsmen.can't imagine giving chances to over and over to Kapugedara.They should have look for Bhanuka Rajapaksa now.

Posted by spex750 on (March 9, 2012, 13:21 GMT)

Agree with MinusZero. The last final was a great way to finish - showing off all the reasons why this tri-series was so good, and as an Aussie it went the right way - and naming Dilsan as Man of the Series ended it on a good note.

Posted by MinusZero on (March 9, 2012, 3:53 GMT)

I was glad to see Dilshan get man of the series. Too often the series winner team has it. Good decision. Despite not taking many wickets, being economical is just as valuable

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.

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