New Zealand v Sri Lanka, 2nd ODI, Dambulla August 13, 2010

Tharanga negotiates tricky chase

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In a top-order studded with some of the finest batsmen of today, Upul Tharanga tends to get overlooked. Against New Zealand, however, he gave another demonstration of why he remains integral to Sri Lanka's World Cup plans. His batting doesn't have either the flash of Tillakaratne Dilshan or the smooth adaptability of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, but his gutsy 70 on a challenging track was pivotal to the victory.

It was a grab bag of an innings, which included inept wafts outside off, classy cover drives, his favourite cuts past point and an unintended tap to the off side as he was withdrawing his bat from a pull. The initial period was particularly patchy, a mix of getting beaten by a big margin outside off and some sparkling boundaries.

Though 193 was a tiny target, batting under lights in Dambulla is never easy, as India had found out in the tournament's opening match. "There was a bit of movement early on, there's not a lot of swing but a bit of uneven bounce, and a bit of seam movement." Sangakkara said. "Actually the slower bowlers like [Scott] Styris and the spinners were a bit harder to score off than the fast bowlers, the ball kept holding on the wicket, there were pieces coming off the wicket as well."

However, New Zealand's hopes evaporated after Tharanga's 84-run stand with Sangakkara, who after some starting trouble played some of the most eye-catching strokes of the match. "I thought Upul batted really well. I struggled to get to grips with the wicket early on," Sangakkara said. "I was watching how Upul batted, and whenever he played a shot it was as if the wicket was absolutely flat, so I kept trying to watch him and see what he was doing and bat accordingly."

The partnership entertained the home fans, who came in decent numbers to create a lively atmosphere around the ground, unlike in the first match where hardly any spectators turned up. There were men on stilts twirling rings of fire, adding to the party mood, which wasn't dampened even by the fall of Sangakkara and Jayawardene.

Capitalising on a Styris drop at first slip, Tharanga scored his fourth half-century in seven innings, cleverly working the slower bowlers around to keep Sri Lanka on course for a bonus point. With 60 runs needed off six overs for the extra point, Sri Lanka opted for the batting Powerplay. Thilan Samaraweera showed off some innovative footwork, but Tharanga perished attempting a big hit.

Angelo Mathews followed for a golden duck, and there was a bit of drama towards the end as Sri Lanka promoted Nuwan Kulasekara and Rangana Herath ahead of Chamara Kapugedera in an attempt to quickly score the runs needed for the bonus. Both didn't succeed, and it was a cool Samaraweera who led them to a three-wicket victory, a final margin which hides the one-sidedness of the contest.

Sangakkara said that it might have been a better tactic to send in the bowlers ahead of Mathews, and was disappointed to have missed the icing to the victory. "When you get an opportunity like this to get a bonus point, in Dambulla that might be a really important factor later on, unfortunately we weren't good enough to get the bonus point."

He was happy though that the team had won chasing under lights in Dambulla. "It's tough out there but it does our confidence a world of good." For that, he'll have to thank his opener. Tharanga spent plenty of time yo-yoing in and out of the side after his debut in 2005, but displaced Sanath Jayasuriya from the opening slot after last year's Champions Trophy and has since kept out the 41-year-old, who still harbours ambitions of playing a sixth World Cup. More performances like this, and Jayasuriya could well be confined to the television studios when the global tournament comes around next year.

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on August 16, 2010, 17:48 GMT

    @Kaza : I was not saying it ,only repeated what Russell Arnold and Danny Morrison said .Today srilanka got out not because of pitch but bad batting same with new zeland and India .Regarding learning from Sanga ,yes that is absolutely required ,especially what he said to Randiv just before the last ball was bowled .Proved again that he is a sour looser

  • KaZsa on August 16, 2010, 8:05 GMT

    @Unni Krishnan - Really??Spongy bounce was missing eh...then how did the Lankan bowlers got NZ all out for 192 and India gave them 288?Stop giving lame excuses like what Dhoni does.Play well and win the game or accept the fact that you lost because you didn't play well.Learn from Sanga.He said you need character to win batting second and his team showed character to win.Give the credit where it deserves and accept failures.

  • dummy4fb on August 15, 2010, 14:44 GMT

    @paddy mohan:The spongy bounce was missing when srilanka was playing ,I think it will be back only when India and New Zeland play next.About srilankan coatching manual Kindly sent it to my email if you have a copy

  • dummy4fb on August 14, 2010, 14:06 GMT

    Guys like Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh should learn from Upul Tharanga, how to play on this wicket that offers "spongy bounce". Indian batsmen are hopeless, they can take a leaf out of Srilankans' coaching manual.

  • dummy4fb on August 14, 2010, 10:40 GMT

    Yes. Tharanga is good player. also SLC can try giving a chance to paranawithana in addition to dilshan. also SLC must prepare more bouncy wickets instead of batsmen friendly.

  • nataraajds on August 14, 2010, 5:56 GMT

    Indians should have watch this game. SL first restrict NZ for a small score and then chase it inspite of loosing 7 crucial wickets. where as indians let NZ off hook and allow them to score 288.. Chasing this total was not an easy at the venue.. even SL strugle yesterday.. Hope Indians learn their mistakes and comes good when they play SL next

  • bigbang07 on August 14, 2010, 5:07 GMT

    This guy has a tendency to bring his A game on when needed. Last night was such an effort. Would like to see him continue his good run. Better pitch than the first game but nevertheless, a satisfying performance

  • mike5181 on August 14, 2010, 2:20 GMT

    Im a New Zealander and this was a good performance from the Sri lankan side. Malinga particularly was a handful and the two ducks in the top 4 really hurt us this time as Taylor was not at the crease for long aswel. Tharanga looks like an underated player and forms a good combo with dilshan at the top. Geez if NZ had mccullem and rhyder here there would be some top openers on display in the tournament. NZ came back in the end to show their character but the bat let us down with an unusually long tail? Gareth Hopkins seems to be a waste of a place possibly watling should take the gloves and bring Elliot and Oram back in the team gives a more balanced bat/ball side. Mills lived up to his high odi bowling ranking of recent years. NZ should persist with Kane Williamson for atleast 5 more odi and if he continues to fail then pull him aside and give him a break he will only get better at his age.

  • Zookinii on August 14, 2010, 0:23 GMT

    Upul Tharanga has most definitely proven his worth to the SL side. He is a consistent performer and certainly an intelligent and capable cricketer.

  • sachin_vvsfan on August 13, 2010, 21:45 GMT

    Why is the author citing INDIA again. Is he expecting fans to fight over on this again that it is a different pitch? The bowlers setup the victory and the batsman did their part.The scorecard doesn't reveal everything ,they lost wickets in a hurry for the bonus point and i dont think 30-40 more runs would have made any difference. SO credit to the team effort. If jayasuriya sits out for world cup all other teams will be happy :)

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