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August 9, 2009
Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lanka's captain, has credited the team's belief in itself as key to breaking a long run of home ODI series defeats. Sri Lanka had lost their last three bilateral ODI series played at home to India (twice) and England but in the five-match contest against Pakistan, turned it around to record a 3-2 win.
Significantly, it was their first home series wins against Pakistan in both forms of the game. "We competed every step of the way and we managed to hang in there till we got a break. In the Test series there were a couple of instances where Pakistan should have beaten us but we hung in there and believed that we could win," said Sangakkara. "You set yourself small targets like you win 10 overs on a day or in a session and you keep working like that. But at the end of the day you got to trust each other in the team because that's why you are there as a team.
"You've got to trust the guy next to you who can do the best job he can for the side. That has been one of the changes I've seen, everyone's believed that we could win."
Sri Lanka won the first three ODIs in Dambulla to seal the series but lost the last two under lights at the Premadasa. Having assured themselves of the series the hosts opened their options by trying to give every member of the squad exposure. "The only thing we did is we gave a lot of opportunities to the guys in the squad to try and see where they are at," said Sangakkara. "We've got to get away from the excuses and complaints, as a team we got to make sure that whatever conditions we get whether we win the toss or lose it we approach the game in the same way. We tried to do that but we got a long way to go to make sure we do that consistently.
"The best thing about our team is the guys learn. We've got to put these things [defeats] behind us but the best way you can do that is to make sure it doesn't happen often."
Sangakkara said that the absence of experienced matchwinners like Chaminda Vaas and Muthiah Muralitharan had the likes of Thilan Thushara and Nuwan Kulasekara the opportunity to become the big names of Sri Lankan cricket. "This was a great team effort to win the series and although there were a few individual brilliances we've got to thank the bowlers for our success. It doesn't matter whether you come into a series with a pedigree or whether you are new as long as you are enthusiastic, working hard, bowling in the right areas, bowling aggressively you have a great chance of making an impact," he said. "Thushara and Kulasekara especially went about their business very professionally bowled good lines, good lengths and let the ball to the rest right throughout the Test and ODI series. That is one of the reasons why we won. Our bowling always stepped up when we wanted it to. We've just got to make sure our batting keeps up."
Despite his team's double success Sangakkara felt there were quite a lot of areas they needed to improve on, such as building partnerships in the middle order and getting solid starts consistently. "Guys like Lahiru Thirimanne and Gihan Rupasinghe are all pushing for places in the side. Suraj Randiv and Sachitra Senanayake are pushing for spinners' places. We have 44 ODI games before the World Cup and within that time we've got to keep the core solid and give as much opportunity as we can to new people so that they can settle and become part of the side and see whether they can contribute and step up to this level."
Pakistan coach Intikhab Alam said the two wins in a lost series would give his team a lot of confidence for the future of their cricket. "It's very important to get the right combination. Once you get the right combination it works. We had a few injuries in the side but we had good bench strength so fortunately for bowlers like Naved-ul-Hasan and Ifthikar [Anjum], they got an opportunity and they made use of it."
Naved was named Man of the Match after destroying the Sri Lankan batting with 4 for 44. Anjum was instrumental in Pakistan's first win on Friday taking 5 for 30.
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