Sri Lanka pay for small mistakes
Sri Lanka were the most consistent team in last year's World Twenty20, moving into the final unbeaten before falling to an inspired Pakistan outfit at Lord's. This time they are left knowing only a victory against Zimbabwe will keep them in the tournament, and even then it will require a nervous wait for the outcome of the final match in the group.
The game against New Zealand was always a nip-and-tuck affair although Sri Lanka had the bowling attack to defend 135. When the spinners strangled the middle of the chase it looked as though they would do just that, but on this occasion Lasith Malinga's skills at the death weren't quite up to their best.
"You'd probably back him more times than not," said coach Trevor Bayliss. "Having said that, it shouldn't have got down to the last over and all being on Lasith's shoulders. It's certainly not his fault."
It wasn't the happiest of afternoons for Malinga, who missed two run-out chances in the field. A wild throw from Malinga at point in the sixth over meant Kumar Sangakkara couldn't gather the ball, then in the final over he missed an underarm flick towards the stumps from a couple of yards away with Daniel Vettori stranded. In the end, the small errors added up for Sri Lanka.
"We were a little off our game in most departments," said Bayliss. "Our batting didn't score as many runs in the first six overs as we normally do, our fielding could have been a bit better. It wasn't too bad, but not quite good enough at this level."
This was never likely to be a high-scoring match, but Sri Lanka's lack of early momentum with the bat had allowed New Zealand an early hold on the game. After six overs they were 36 for 1 and 30 of those had come from the blade of the promoted Mahela Jaywardene, opening for the first time in a Twenty20 international. At the other end the going had been much tougher.
Tillakaratne Dilshan has come into this tournament amid much hype after his prolific form over the last year, but he struggled during the IPL with 44 runs from six innings before being dropped by Delhi Daredevils. His lack of touch was soon apparent as he couldn't get the ball off the square against the combination of Nathan McCullum's offspin and Shane Bond's pace. When he fell for 3 from 19 deliveries - the slowest strike-rate for a Sri Lanka Twenty20 innings - Jayawardene, who was in supreme IPL form despite Kings XI Punjab's poor event, had 30 from 15.
"Every batter goes through a bit of a lean trot," said Bayliss. "In the last 18 months Dilshan has been unbelievable and you can't have that sort of form and not be able to score runs. I'm sure in the next game or two we'll see the best of him."
And Bayliss also had a very simple answer to how Sri Lanka will approach the tournament from here. "If we win every game from here we'll be champions." But there's no room for anymore mistakes. undefined
Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo