Series loss exposes Sri Lanka's top-order issues

Batting coach Thilan Samaraweera conceded that Sri Lanka's top order is nowhere near finalised, as they look ahead to the World Cup

Dhananjaya de Silva plays a sweep, Sri Lanka v South Africa, 3rd ODI, Pallekele, August 5, 2018

Associated Press

In the first ODI, it had been Sri Lanka's top-order batting that failed most dramatically, with five wickets falling before the ninth over. In the second ODI, Sri Lanka's poor catching had helped decide the match, with captain Angelo Mathews later describing his team's fielding as a "joke" and stating that they had been like "schoolkids" in the field.
On Sunday, Sri Lanka lost their 11th straight ODI to South Africa, as well as the ongoing series. This time, it was the bowlers who let the team down. They leaked 114 runs in the last 10 overs, having also conceded 64 in the first 10. These were the defining passages of the game, for batting coach Thilan Samaraweera.
"We are very disappointed about the 3-0 series loss. Everyone is quite disappointed. We didn't bowl as well as we wanted. Our expectation was to get two wickets in the first 10 overs. We got one wicket, but we gave them a lot of boundary balls in that first 10, just as we did in the last 10 overs. That hurt us.
"We thought that this pitch would settle down after 2pm. But unfortunately we gave away 363, and that's a lot. There were about three or four overs in the last 10 overs, in which they scored 18 or 20 runs. And when a team gets to 360, you have to play your shots in the chase. Unfortunately, a few of the shots our top order played went straight to fielders."
Although Samaraweera did not blame the batsmen for this loss, he did concede that Sri Lanka's top order is nowhere near finalised, as they look ahead to the World Cup. In this match, they had promoted Thisara Perera to No. 5, because he was "batting well" according to Samaraweera, and could have "energised the innings a bit by hitting 70 or 80 quickly". In terms of a long-term top order, though, Dhananjaya de Silva suggested he could be an option, hitting 84 off 66 balls at No. 7 to give Sri Lanka a glimmer of hope after they had been reduced to 155 for 6. This was de Silva's first match of the series, and if he continues to perform, he could become an option in the top three, as he opens the innings for his domestic team. It does not hurt his chances that he bowls offspin as well.
"There are a little more than 20 matches until the World Cup, and so far we don't know what positions our top order batsmen will take up," Samaraweera said. "We don't even know who the top three are yet. But Dhananjaya did bat very well, and we saw that he made the best of the opportunity that he got. You need someone in the top six to bowl, other than Thisara Perera. Dhananjaya is a better bowler than a part-timer, I believe. He batted in a new position and he did really well. I think that's a positive for Sri Lankan cricket."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando