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'We know how to cope with pressure' - Atapattu

No other team has played as many knockout matches as Sri Lanka have in recent times, and this, according to their coach Marvan Atapattu, has given them an ability to seize key moments

Lasith Malinga accepts Kyle Coetzer's return catch, Scotland v Sri Lanka, World Cup 2015, Group A, Hobart, March 11, 2015

Marvan Atapattu has marked out Lasith Malinga as a key big-match player for Sri Lanka  •  Getty Images

Sri Lanka's batsmen have the most runs and appearances of any top order in the competition. Lasith Malinga has more World Cup wickets than any other bowler in the tournament. Sri Lanka have relied on that experience to move past the softer opponents in their group, but as the tournament heads into sudden death now, they believe they have a further advantage. In the two most recent World Cups, Sri Lanka have played five knockout matches, winning three and losing both finals. No other team has played more than three.
In addition to their progress to consecutive World Cup finals, Sri Lanka have also appeared in three World T20 finals and a semi-final since 2009. It is this group's ability to seize key moments that sets them apart, coach Marvan Atapattu has said.
"I've been with these players for four years now, and we've come to so many big tournament matches where we have to win," he said. "I've seen people raise their game, and I've seen people raise the whole team. I see no difference this time, and because I've seen that I have confidence in these guys doing it again. When it comes to pulling together and working towards a common goal, we're among the best.
"If you count the number of matches that all of us have had within the 15, it's more than any other team in the competition. So for them having been so long in the system, and played so many World Cup and knockout games, they know how to cope with pressure, and they know exactly how to prepare for that."
Among the men Marvan Atapattu marked out as a "big match player" is Lasith Malinga - Sri Lanka's top wicket-taker in the tournament. He had begun the World Cup with a mediocre showing against New Zealand, when he collected figures of 0 for 84. But while he is yet to consistently bowl quicker than 140 kph, he has 11 wickets at an average of 20.64 from his five most recent outings.
"Lasith feels confident, which is the most important thing," Atapattu said. "You may not see the same speed that he got two or three years back, but that's something that everybody, including the greats, have had to face. Lasith is somebody who, come the big game, can rise up to that. He's somebody that is looking forward to having a good performance. He's a matchwinner, and I'm sure he'll live up to that."
Sri Lanka's batting appears by some distance their strongest suit in the approach to the knockouts. Their top four have hit eight centuries between them - four of those belonging to Kumar Sangakkara. Sri Lanka have also raised four 300-plus scores on the trot, and though the dominance of the top order has precluded the men lower down from time in the middle, Atapattu expressed confidence in the batting blueprint that has brought Sri Lanka this far.
"We all knew what we were capable of when it came to batting. It's just a matter of clicking and winning at the right time. When you have four guys out of seven firing, that tells a story. You can't have all seven guys to fire. In different competitions, people get into form and it's their responsibility to take the team to big scores, and to ensure the chases are being done successfully. That has been happening, and that's always a good sign."
Sri Lanka have been shaken by multiple injuries during the tournament, the most recent of which was Dinesh Chandimal's hamstring injury. In his place, Sri Lanka have flown in Kusal Perera, who has more often featured as an opener at this level. However, Kusal has batted in the middle order for his domestic side. If he plays in the XI, he is most likely to come to the crease at no. 5 or later.
"I always believe that if you're good enough you should be able to bat anywhere from no. 1 to no. 7 without a problem," Atapattu said. "Given the other batsmen and what's required for the team, it might be the case that Kusal has to bat lower."

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