Captains reflect on reversal of fortunes
How quickly the momentum has shifted. After bossing New Zealand around in the Tests, Sri Lanka have been slightly deflated with a loss in momentum, after defeats in both Twenty20 contests over the past three days. New Zealand followed up their three-run victory on Wednesday with 22-run win last night to start the limited-overs part of their tough tour on a definite high.
This was most visible right after the second match, when the entire New Zealand team and support staff stood in unison near the dais, waiting for the presentation to start. Kumar Sangakkara came out shortly but had to stop, look around, and then beckon his players to join him in a show of solidarity like the tourists. A visibly flustered Sangakkara called out to a couple players looking on from the dressing room, signaling that the rest all hurry down immediately. Slowly, the Sri Lankans descended the steps and formed a queue around their captain.
Later, in a closed-room press conference, Sangakkara said his team will have to fight hard to regain lost momentum. "It was a great pitch, but we lost too many wickets and were not able to build the kind of partnerships you need. We tried everything and we still came up short. A loss is always a concern. Once you're outplayed, you have to accept it. You learn from it and move on."
For his opposite number, Daniel Vettori, this was an indication of things to come. "The guys will take a lot of confidence from that. I think everyone out there put up a performance at some stage and they'll be happy with that," Vettori said. "They can take that into the one-dayers. For us to make the final will be a great stepping stone for the Champions Trophy."
Both Twenty20 internationals highlighted Sri Lanka's reliance on Tillakaratne Dilshan to provide a good start. On Wednesday, Dilshan blazed away as wickets fell around him and by the time he departed for 57, the damage had been done with Sri Lanka 75 for 4. Yesterday, Dilshan's dismissal in the first over was followed by a slump to 11 for 3. "When a batsman's in form, he always seems to be the guy scoring the runs at the top. Unfortunately the other guys haven't been supporting him as they can," said Sangakkara. "They have the ability to do so but unfortunately we haven't had that. It's a learning process, form comes and goes but I think the players we do have are well capable of getting us the runs and the starts we need to win."
Vettori pinpointed that dismissal as a result of planning - Martin Guptill was put out on the boundary for this shot, and Shane Bond dropped the ball short of a length - and hard work. "Shane stood up and said he wanted to do that job. We had some goods plans and they worked today. It's always great when that happens because you work pretty hard and sometimes it doesn't work out. To see it work today and the lift it gave the team was great.",
The other concern for Sri Lanka is the lack of runs from Sanath Jayasuriya, whose last eight innings have produced 125 runs at 15.63. His one-day form is equally dismal, with just 132 at 18.66 in his last seven trips to the middle. "It's always a concern when a batsman's out of form," said Sangakkara, "But we all know what he can do and what he has done. We have to give him every chance to get back in there and score runs.''
Bond's return to the international circuit has been watched closely by many, including the two captains. The jury is not yet on Bond going into what will be his first real test, the one-day part of this tour. "You can't really tell much in four overs but you've in these conditions fast bowling is always a challenge," said Sangakkara. "Batsmen always back themselves to face pace on these tracks. With the sun coming out of day-nighters, bowling in the sun…that will be the real test for him.''
Vettori said it was a great start for Bond, as he attempted to launch himself at the highest level. "You couldn't really ask for too much more. It's great for him to start the way he has and I think he'll get better and better. The role's he's performed - taking the new ball and then coming back at the death ...I've been really impressed with the way he bowled then.
"He looks confident and when Shane's confident he's a really good bowler. I think we'll see more of that as the one-day series goes on. This series will take the nerves away from him and he'll be able to concentrate on playing cricket now."
Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo