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Mickey Arthur: They're No. 1, we're No. 9, and you can see the difference

Sri Lanka's head coach said he wants the batters to be more proactive against a world-class England attack

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Sri Lanka coach Mickey Arthur looks on as his side's injuries mount, South Africa v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Day 2, Centurion, December 27, 2020

'I thought England were world-class with the lengths they hit.' - Mickey Arthur  •  AFP via Getty Images

Mickey Arthur has urged his Sri Lanka side to stay patient after they slipped to a second defeat in as many nights in Cardiff, leaving them on a run of 11 defeats in their last 12 completed T20Is dating back to October 2019.
Opting to bat first in both games after winning the toss, Sri Lanka posted scores of 129 and 111, and while they came much closer to defending their total on Thursday night than in Wednesday's eight-wicket pasting, they always looked a long way short of a par score, failing to hit a boundary in the powerplay for the first time in their T20I history. Arthur, Sri Lanka's head coach, stressed at the start of the tour that he wanted to add a level of consistency to selection following a turbulent period of chopping and changing, and that it would be important to "nail down the guys' roles" in this series.
Dasun Shanaka, with scores of 50 and 8 from No. 7, is their leading run-scorer in the series, with Danushka Gunathilaka and Avishka Fernando - backed as opening options for the long term - both struggling to make an impact at the top of the order. Their lack of attacking intent with the bat came under scrutiny on Thursday, but while Arthur suggested that they could be "more proactive" in future, he said that there had been limited opportunities to score against a "world-class" England side on a slow, two-paced pitch being used for the second night in a row.
"Just not enough runs again," Arthur told the BBC, when asked for his take on his side's defeat. "We're coming up against a really good bowling attack. They're ranked No. 1 in the world, we're ranked No. 9 [actually No. 8] and you can see the difference. We've started a journey with a young team and for us it's about getting better, competing, learning from every game and every experience and getting better and better as we go along.
"It's tough. We're consistently talking about freedom, about taking the handbrake off as a batting unit. But you can only bat as well as you're allowed to and I thought England were world-class with the lengths they hit. They put us under a lot of pressure with the bat.
"We can be more proactive and we've got to go back and work on that. We can walk around the crease a little bit more and try to do different things but our batters are learning all the time, particularly in these conditions. We've got a really exciting batting unit in our conditions but it's about transferring those skills to conditions outside our own environment."
There have been more positives with the ball, with Dushmantha Chameera finding steepling bounce with the new ball in both games, Wanindu Hasaranga conceding only four runs per over across the series, and Binura Fernando striking with the new ball when handed an opportunity on Thursday night. Arthur also highlighted the improvements that have been made in Sri Lanka's fielding after he had placed an emphasis on fitness, and noted the absence of the injured Lahiru Kumara and Kasun Rajitha.
"I thought we bowled really well," he said. "Our fielding has gone up to another level. Fielding is all about attitude, it's measurable, and I think the guys are getting better and better with that. We're really excited with our bowling unit and we've got a couple of guys that are injured as well, so when we get them back we'll be good."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98