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Theekshana attributes Sri Lanka's ODI success to variety in bowling attack

"When you have four players playing differently for the same team, it's a benefit for us"

Maheesh Theekshana struck twice in two overs to dismiss Sean Williams and Ryan Burl, Zimbabwe vs Sri Lanka, Men's World Cup Qualifier, Super Six, Bulawayo, July 2, 2023

Maheesh Theekshana picked up 4 for 25 to rattle Zimbabwe  •  ICC/Getty Images

Sri Lanka's batting may be shaky, their reviewing dodgy and the standard of their fielding changes from game to game. But in this tournament, there can be little question. Their bowling is the best on show. After five matches, no team has yet made 200 against them in the World Cup Qualifier.
This, despite arguably their best ODI bowler - Dushmantha Chameera - not playing a single match, due to injury. In Sunday's game against Zimbabwe, they were also without Lahiru Kumara, who walked off the field injured in the last match and has been ruled out of the tournament.
Maheesth Theekshana, Sri Lanka's primary destroyer against Zimbabwe, says it's Sri Lanka's variety that makes the attack so potent. He has a point.
"The variation we have is a major part of our team. Wanindu [Hasaranga], myself, Matheesha [Pathirana], and Dilshan [Madushanka] - it's four guys who are doing different things," Theekshana said after the game. When you have four players playing differently for the same team, it's a benefit for us. That's why we are doing really well with the bowling attack. If someone doesn't do well, there are three other guys who can do well."
A brief run through what those four guys do:
- Theekshana is a right-arm finger spinner who bowls wicket-to-wicket, is hard to hit off on length, and deals in mystery.
- Wanindu Hasaranga is a legbreak bowler with a killer googly. He's been a T20 international star for years now but may just be entering his ODI era (or so Sri Lanka hope).
- Dilshan Madushanka is a fast left-arm bowler with a killer inswinger.
- Matheesha Pathirana is a round-arm slinger still finding his way at this level. But he's finding his way at upwards of 145kmph, pretty often.
Sri Lanka's bowlers have also taken turns to take the big hauls and, by extension, the limelight. Hasaranga tore through the group stage, taking six wickets against UAE, and five each against Oman and Ireland, and now has 20 wickets for the tournament - easily the most successful at the Qualifier.
In the last two matches, though, Theekshana has been the star. Having helped turn a difficult match against the Netherlands on Friday, he took 4 for 25 against Zimbabwe. One of his victims was Sean Williams, by far the highest scorer in the tournament. Theekshana is the second highest wicket-taker at the Qualifier, with 13 dismissals at an average of 14.76 and an economy rate of 4.05 - better even than Hasaranga's.
"Hasaranga and I have a very good partnership," Theekshana said. "In T20s, some days he gets wickets and I tend to go for less than 24 runs. For us, it's really good that we're both doing well right now. He didn't get any wickets today, but he did bowl really well. When he's bowling really well at one end, we know we can always get wickets at the other end. It's always about partnerships in cricket, whether it's batting or bowling. He's a champion bowler. He's already got 20 wickets in this tournament. That's really good for the team."

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