Sri Lanka v India, tri-series, 5th ODI, Dambulla August 21, 2010

Sri Lanka aim to settle middle-order slots


Batsmen are a pampered lot in one-day cricket with Powerplays, powerful bats and placid pitches making you wonder why anyone chooses to become a bowler. Batting in the lower middle-order, though, requires a diverse set of skills not too many players possess, making it a problem area for several teams, including Sri Lanka.

On flat tracks, you get the crumbs after the top order has feasted. On tougher surfaces, you have to firefight, often with the tail, if the big names who came in earlier flop. The spotlight usually falls on you in tight chases, when your nerves and temperament will be tested. This need to be free-swinging from the outset at times, to show a watertight defensive technique at others, is what makes No. 6 and 7 in the batting order such a tricky proposition.

Sri Lanka have more or less penciled in their top five for the World Cup, but it's the two spots below that is giving them a headache. Much faith has been shown in Chamara Kapugedera, who has certainly shown the ability to hit big but is yet to show the reliability that will assure him a permanent place. An average of 23 after plenty of matches gives him his share of critics, as does the lack of a century.

Then there's Thilan Samaraweera, whose Test average is nearly twice that of his one-day mean, showing which format he is more comfortable with. While his solidity was never in doubt, he has lately shown glimpses of the inventiveness needed to be successful lower down the order. His unbeaten 35 against New Zealand had him shuffling around the crease to throw bowlers off their line, and there was even a paddle scoop for four off quick bowler Tim Southee. After resurrecting his ODI career 12 months ago, he's hoping to play his first World Cup more than 12 years after his debut.

Unlike Samaraweera, Chamara Silva manages to get on the selectors radar when there's a World Cup around. Three months before the 2007 edition, he returned to the Sri Lankan team after a four-year gap, and went on win a ticket to the Caribbean. Again, after playing only one ODI in nearly two years, he's back in the side and has strengthened his case with a fluent and enterprising unbeaten 41 in the rain-hit game against New Zealand.

"It was a big game for Silva, he hasn't played with us for a while, looks like a World Cup specialist," Mahela Jayawardene said on Friday. "He looked very confident, he has got a lot of shots, once he got settled in he was brilliant against both spin and pace."

Two other contenders who have really impressed Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara are Dinesh Chandimal and Jeevan Mendis, both of whom got their international break when several seniors were rested for the Zimbabwe tri-series earlier this year. Chandimal, a 20-year-old wicketkeeper batsman, blasted a match-winning century in only his second ODI innings, against India batting up the order, and is currently hitting the headlines for a nine-hour double hundred against South Africa A at the SSC.

"Chandimal is one of the best young cricketers that we have," Sangakkara said. "He has done great work in Zimbabwe, he has scored an international century, he's an exciting player, we have to consider him very quickly, I think he's got the ability to handle Australia (during the limited-overs tour in November)."

Mendis, 27, is a legspinning allrounder who had a decent run in Zimbabwe and could prove handy whenever Sri Lanka go in with only one specialist spinner. "Mendis will also be very useful with his legspin and batting ability," Sangakkara said. "Going forward for the World Cup, two guys we need to make it to the side is Jeevan Mendis and Dinesh Chandimal, I think if we have those two guys, our batting line-up is solid."

Completing the scramble for middle-order places are Thilina Kandamby - out of favour after 11 innings without a half-century - and Thisara Perera, a 21-year-old quick who can provide the batting overdrive needed late in the innings.

With only eight ODIs lined up before the World Cup, auditioning chances are running out. "We try and give everyone a go but we have to make a really quick decision," Sangakkara said. That decision could well prove pivotal to Sri Lanka's campaign next year.

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Lalith on August 23, 2010, 11:39 GMT

    INDIA just 2 matches away from winning this CUP.

  • Dummy4 on August 22, 2010, 19:35 GMT


  • Dummy4 on August 22, 2010, 17:58 GMT

    we done whatevr we want and tkae india to brisk by winning the match by 202 balls remaining hahahhaahahhahaa

  • Anjana on August 22, 2010, 17:39 GMT

    Ha haaaaa!!!! Now its time for excuses for consolation!!!!!!!! Now they will say, had not those couple of doubtful decisions went against India, certainly India will beat Sri Lanka with a bonus point......... Now there will be flurry of comments by frustrated Indian fans, and no doubt most of them will have a go at umpire decisions rather than poor cricket by India.

    Frankly, there were 3 decisions went against India, one went against Sri Lanka. 1. Sehwag was clearly out, and hawk eye proved it. So no doubts. 2. According to snicko, Karthik didn't edge it, thus unfortunate have that decision. 3. Reina clearly edged Mathews's delivery, snicko proved it but umpire turned it down, next over umpire gave him out for a ball he didn't edge. 4. Yuvi was clearly not out.

    Although MSD yesterday said that Indians are aggressive after that "no ball incident", only P. Kumar showed some of it, that too not with his bowling!!!!! Truly, It was a humiliating defeat and that's why MSD boycotted press!

  • Akila on August 22, 2010, 14:39 GMT

    Hey..I guess Nuwan Kulasekara needs to be banned for at least one match. He denied Sewag a century today and according to Indian fans..thats a very bad deed for the spirit of cricket.


  • KS on August 22, 2010, 14:15 GMT

    Let dinesh chandimal to come up in SL team.. natural talent and performence should be the reason to be a member of sri lankan team not the age factor.. takes examples from pakistan team.. umar akmal and mohomad aamer. they are still below 20 s but they are the leading batsmen and bowler in their side..

  • Tharindu on August 22, 2010, 14:07 GMT

    @ Thuvarakan Karunananthan & Sumit Dhar - Now the time is 7.36 p.m (SL time) & the match (on which you two predicted lot of things) was over ! I don't need to tell you the result since you may already know, eh ?..... So, Mr. Sumit Dhar, what happened to the so called 'boomrang' ? Did you get the BONUS POINT ?? Now whose match has the threat of being washed out ?....We (Sri Lankans) never expect the next match to be washed out, because we don't afraid to see your team in the final...Cheers !

  • mahendra on August 22, 2010, 13:53 GMT

    India refused the UDRS because the final decision is made by the 3rd umpire who would have been Sri lankan .Last time India lost out to 90% of the decisions made by the 3rd umpire . Even though Mendis did surprise & bowl brilliantly , He may not have broken the World record for most wickets taken for the number of tests played in that series had the 3rd umpire been neutral .

  • JIGNESH on August 22, 2010, 13:32 GMT

    After performing this bad, Indian players got the gut to laugh. That's really sad to watch. I remember, when West Indies team lost the final match against India in 1983 world cup match, some of the West Indian players cried on the ground. But this is Indian team who have nothing in their heart. They would still get more commercial advertisements and start selling the garbage products very next day. If they think this is only a game, then no one should buy expensive ticket and spend expensive time to watch their stupid game. They representing India, so the every game should be their life or one of the part of their body. They are playing with the millions of fans' emotion all over the world by just throwing their bat and surrender. They should at-least try to play full 50 overs. They have very quality batting line up. Then why they are not playing like professionals, and plays like high school students play or the foot ball players play cricket? This is a big question mark from me?

  • Hamza on August 22, 2010, 13:12 GMT

    go Sri lanka go its time to take revenge of the last game game, by fully thrashing the India, loving to see how sri-lanka is keeping the game one sided....

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