Tharanga aims for greater consistency

Upul Tharanga reaches his ninth ODI century AFP

Upul Tharanga's ninth ODI hundred gave Sri Lanka a 1-0 lead over the West Indies in their three-match ODI series, and the opener has said that the plan was for him to bat through the innings once he got a start.

"The team management and the captain had a chat with me and said that what they expect from me is if I get a start to bat till 40 or 45 overs. They said they would be happy if I get 80 or 90 runs by that stage and that's what I am trying to do"

Tharanga played that role to perfection in Sri Lanka's run chase of 197 off 47 overs, contributing an unbeaten 101 off 143 balls and helping his team get there in the 43rd over. But it was not easy chasing down the runs, especially when he had to keep one eye on the weather and the other on the required run rate.

"We had a plan to get to 20 overs without losing too many wickets," Tharanga said. "We were doing well by that stage and we didn't take undue risks as things were pretty much under control. There were slight drizzles and we had one eye on the weather.

"We didn't get a chance to bat in the first game and the way this game was going, I had a feeling that we wouldn't get a chance to bat. But thankfully the weather cleared and it was good to finish off the game.

"Our bowlers have been bowling well and we had a target less than 200. Our plan was for one of the top four batsmen to go on till the 40th over. I got a start and once that happened I thought I should finish the game off."

It was soon after the last World Cup in 2007 that Tharanga lost his form and he struggled for more than two years to regain it. "I am not at my best yet, but I can improve. I want to be a consistent batsman for the team. Consistency is the most important thing for a batsman."

The 27-year-old left-hander is fortunate that his opening partners have both been aggressive players, which allows him to play his natural game without taking undue risks. "Sanath [Jayasuriya] takes a lot of risks. [Tillakaratne] Dilshan is the same. They are free flowing. I try to bat my normal way. If the target is big then I have to adapt. When I am playing with the two of them I can play my natural game.

"From the day I came into the team Kumar [Sangakkara] and Mahela [Jayawardene] have given me lot of support. They insist on showing patience. If I fail to score a run in an over they come and say not to rush, that we could cash in during the latter overs.

"We played pretty well in the last tournament to reach the final, but simply because we reached the finals nothing is guaranteed this time around," said Tharanga. "We have to work hard and if we do, we can reach the finals. From the first game onwards we need to focus and do well."