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For almost two months, Sri Lanka have been successful in a number of high-pressure games in Bangladesh. It indicates that they are developing the knack of taming those pressure moments to their advantage
Mohammad Isam in Mirpur
April 5, 2014
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Players/Officials: Lasith Malinga
Matches: India v Sri Lanka at Dhaka
Series/Tournaments: World T20
Teams: Sri Lanka
Given how the tour of Bangladesh has gone for Sri Lanka from February, a fitting end would be clinching the World T20. Their poor track record in tournament finals has been discussed at length, but this "winning feeling", as described by their captain Lasith Malinga, has the ability to alter history when they take on India in the final on Sunday.
They have repeatedly said that they would do anything to win, particularly after the designated T20 captain Dinesh Chandimal stood aside from the playing XI due to poor form. The decision itself says much about their psyche, but there have been progressive signs.
For almost two months now, they have played a number of high-pressure games, and come out successful in all of them. It started with the two last-ball wins in the T20 series against Bangladesh back in February. They had come back from the dead in the ODI series too, and enjoyed an unbeaten run in the Asia Cup.
"We have the winning feeling among everyone - batsman, bowlers and support staff," Malinga said. "We are trying to play our best cricket, and we are winning. We are looking forward to giving our best tomorrow.
"We won the Asia Cup here, and tomorrow is a good opportunity for us to prove ourselves once more. Everyone trusts us to give our best. If we do that, given that we're used to the pitches and the conditions here, we should have a good chance."
Sri Lanka have been carried by contributions from several players and haven't relied on just a few individuals. Kusal Perera and Mahela Jayawardene have been in good batting form while Angelo Mathews and Rangana Herath have stood up when needed. Herath's spell against New Zealand stood out while Mathews made important runs in the semi-final, just when West Indies were looking to restrict them.
What has stood out for Sri Lanka is their aptitude at handling the tough situations and ensuring they see it through till the end.
They were slightly lucky to start off with in the first T20 against Bangladesh, when Thisara Perera's waist-high full-toss off the final ball was miscued by Anamul Haque, giving the bowler a return catch. Two days later, Sachithra Senanayake hammered Farhad Reza behind square-leg for a boundary when two was needed off the last ball.
Those two successive last-ball wins invigorated the team, who fought back from a sorry 67 for 8 in their next match. The allrounder Perera again made the difference with a counterattacking 80, after which the bowlers squeezed the game out of Bangladesh's grasp. That game alone demoralised the home team, and it was inevitable that Sri Lanka wouldn't be pushed in the next two games.
The momentum carried over to the Asia Cup, where they won close round robin games against Pakistan and India, before cruising past the former in the final. These wins indicate that Sri Lanka are starting to enjoy the tight moments a little more, and having won so many of them here in Bangladesh, they are quite prepared for it. Their most remarkable turnaround has been winning the first ODI against Bangladesh after slipping to such a precarious position.
Perera and Senanayake were helped by dropped catches but since you make your own luck, Perera ensured it worked in their favour. Having a team like Sri Lanka 67 for 8 should have been enough for the captain Mushfiqur Rahim to stifle them further. But as Perera attacked, Bangladesh backed off, to the point that the momentum had shifted quite forcefully by the time Sri Lanka ended their innings.
At the start of the Asia Cup, when Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal led Pakistan's fightback in a big chase, Sri Lanka stayed calm and somehow managed a tight over here, a crucial stop there, producing a breakthrough finally, and winning that opening game.
Against India, it was Kumar Sangakkara who stayed cool with a superb century, but Perera and Senanayake once again ensured that Sri Lanka finished the game, shortly after he got out in the closing stages.
With the attention on Sangakkara and Jayawardene playing their last T20 for Sri Lanka, what matters is how the team's journey ends this season, and they have had a successful last two months in the country, taming the pressure moments.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets hereFeeds: Mohammad Isam
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