South Africa v Sri Lanka, 2nd ODI, East London January 13, 2012

Geoff Marsh upbeat despite hammering

Sri Lanka have had two days to digest, dissect and debate their largest ODI defeat and their lowest ODI score. This is what they have concluded. "We have to just address all areas: our batting, bowling, fielding and mental approach to the game," Geoff Marsh, the Sri Lanka coach, said, covering the entire spectrum of cricketing skills in his analysis. "The whole game [in Paarl], we didn't play well."

Marsh's remarks summarised Sri Lanka's problems succinctly; he somehow managed to make the huge improvement they needed from the first ODI sound manageable. "We can explain the batting, it was very quick," he joked. "We didn't bowl consistently enough, we didn't build pressure and we didn't take wickets."

After Lasith Malinga dismissed Graeme Smith in the third over, Sri Lanka did not see success for more than half the innings. Twenty-six overs and 144 runs later, they were able to remove Jacques Kallis. By then, they had bled too much and the life had been drained from their attack.

"Against South Africa you've got to take early wickets; you can't allow their players to build big partnerships at the start or you are going to be chasing 300 plus," Marsh said. Malinga's burst at the end, in which he took four wickets in three overs, was the only reason Sri Lanka were not left chasing 330.

As it happened, 130 would have been enough. Pace, bounce and determination from South Africa's fast bowlers buried a Sri Lanka batting line-up that was impressive on paper but limp on the pitch.

One of Sri Lanka's chief concerns is the form of former captain Mahela Jayawardene, who has had a dismal tour. His only score of significance came in a practice one-day match against an Emerging Cape Cobras side, in which he was dropped twice on his way to 74. Tillakaratne Dilshan and Angelo Mathews have also struggled for runs, making the core of Sri Lanka's line-up, which was so impressive nine months ago during the World Cup, look fragile. Marsh, though, said he still had faith in the batsmen.

"We believe that they are only a couple of shots away from getting back into form. Our players have got fantastic records and they just need to get started and get going. We are very happy to stick with them and back them all the way."

Though Sri Lanka's experienced players have struggled on the field, Marsh said they had taken on a leadership role behind the scenes. "Although they are not scoring runs, they are still making an effort to lift the team as they did before the second Test match. As a coach, you look at that, and it's great that they are still having a huge impact."

The Durban Test match remains the only high-point of Sri Lanka's tour. After a thrashing in Centurion, the team regrouped and, within a week, were playing with more commitment and confidence. Although the win was historic - it was their first Test win in South Africa - Sri Lanka did not seem to get carried away with it, and Marsh wants to use that recovery as inspiration for an ODI series that has started in eerily similar fashion to the Tests.

"It's not as if we can't do it because we did in the second Test match. If you look at the second Test, we were consistent in all areas. We got early wickets, kept the pressure on, got our heads down against some really good bowling and got a score that our bowlers could bowl at. Nothing changes in the one-day game; we've got to get enough runs on the board to allow our bowlers to bowl South Africa out."

A simple plan, but one that will take fortitude and force to achieve. Marsh said Sri Lanka had the desire. "We've got a wonderful bunch of guys and the spirit is fantastic. If you attend our team meetings, you will see how much we want to win."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 14, 2012, 7:27 GMT

    I love to see Arjuna Ranatunga as a team selector.

  • Dummy4 on January 14, 2012, 6:58 GMT

    Selectors should drop Mahela,remove Dilshan from captaincy & Mathews from vice captain.Mahela out of form during 2011 except one or two knocks.Giving Dilshan the captaincy has brought the downfall of the team.He dosent perform and no team spirit in the team.He is a very unlucky captain.Selectors should give Sanga the captaincy to motivate young mathews to be a future captain.

  • Manoj on January 14, 2012, 4:23 GMT

    Welldone Marsh when we read your possitive comments we all feel good and you give us some hope moving forward. When you were appointed sri lanka coach I was very happy with your expirience you will guide sri lanka forward and you also should be proud winning the second test when we were not given a chance at all. I hope as a coach you will select the best playing 11 whom you think can produce results not names or seniors.As sri lankan supporters we have hopes and I m sure you will make all of us proud with results we expect.

  • Ayesh on January 14, 2012, 3:37 GMT

    Mehela seems to worry about his IPL contract with the Keral Tuskers. His mind and body are definitely not in South Africa. I am not blaming players like Mahela for caring about money, BUT if they are placing money before country, then they should stop playing for the country. I think its the right time for us to DROP mahela and give a chance to a youngster who would put 100% for the team. Even though he is not touring, Banuka Rajapakse would be an ideal replacement for Mahela in the future.

  • Bob on January 14, 2012, 0:35 GMT

    I pity selectors. If they hung on to Samaraweera, they'd be accused of holding on to too many older players. Of the other three, Sanga and Mahela wouldn't be dropped first, and Dilshan was captain, so it had to be Thilan that went. Yet now they're criticised for dropping him. People are too quick to judge selectors. With the benefit of hindsight, everything is pretty simple.

  • Dummy4 on January 14, 2012, 0:26 GMT

    I dont know why but Srilanka have become very boring.They were very exciting in days of Sannath,Kalu,Aravinda,Arjuna,Vaas and Murli but now they are not even a shadow of what they once were. I feel for Srilankan fans.

  • Steve on January 13, 2012, 20:35 GMT

    SL is in a similar state as India. Dilshan, Jayawardane are in decline. Shabby treatment of Samaraweera in an indication of confusion in selector's minds.The new talent has not established themselves yet. Bowling dept has not developed yet to win matches on their own after Murali's retirement. Team needs an overall and fans must wait for success as the team goes through painful but necessary transition phase.

  • No featured comments at the moment.