'Nothing in pitch warranted scores that low' - Chandimal
A succession of rash strokes and an inability to handle pressure brought Sri Lanka's downfall in the first Twenty20 in Colombo, captain Dinesh Chandimal has said. Having restricted South Africa to 115 for 6, Sri Lanka mustered only 103 for 9 in their 20 overs, on a surface that presented no great obstacle for scoring runs.
Sri Lanka had been 72 for 3 in the 14th over, but lost six wickets for 23 runs thereafter in which time they used up 32 balls. Kumar Sangakkara hit 59 off 53 and remained unbeaten at the close, but no other batsman in his company managed double figures.
"There was nothing in the pitch that warranted scores that low," Chandimal said. "The bowlers on both teams bowled very well, and for us, our batsmen we just didn't play to the situation. Early on we lost two or three wickets and then played some rash shots. We played some really good cricket in the first half, but we didn't have anyone to support Sangakkara. Not even one batsman stayed with him."
Chandimal said Sri Lanka had planned to use this series strategically, as they looked to build a Twenty20 side for the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh next year. As a result Sri Lanka's most successful Twenty20 batsman, Mahela Jayawardene, did not play in this match, despite being available. The series moves to Hambantota for two matches now, and despite the failure in Colombo, Sri Lanka may not play their best XI there either.
"We are giving the young players a chance in this series, because it's the best chance to test our young players looking ahead to the World Twenty20 in five months' time. Most probably, even in the next two matches, only two of our experienced players will take the field, so that we can give that place to a young player. The senior players can come into any match and perform, because they have that experience. We took that decision with the management and selection committee."
Chandimal's promotion to No. 3 had also been made with development in mind. Sangakkara usually occupies the first-drop position across all formats, but was displaced to No. 4 against South Africa.
"In the last ODI Lahiru Thirimanne had the chance to bat at three. In the ODIs, I didn't get a chance to bat very much so that's why I batted at three today. I'm also a No. 3 or 4 batsman and there was a plan to get some experience in the top order for the young players. Kumar is batting very well, so his game wouldn't be affected. I accept though, that I didn't bat well."
Thirimanne's place in the Twenty20 side has also come under scrutiny, after he contributed a nine-ball five, and was caught on the fence attempting to hit out. The harder-hitting Angelo Perera would appear to be the better option for Sri Lanka in Twenty20s, but could not find a place in the side, although he is in the squad.
"In some T20 matches Thirimanne bats really well. We also have to look at the future of Sri Lanka cricket. Thirimanne, Kusal Perera and myself can get experience and take Sri Lanka cricket forward. So it's up to us to figure out how to learn quickly and perform well. We're doing our best to do that. Angelo Perera is a really good Twenty20 batsman as well, and in the future we'll have to see what our plans are and what our changes and combination will be."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here