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Can Sri Lanka Make History In The One-Day Series?

Can Sri Lanka Make History In The One-Day Series?

By Roshan Abeysinghe

With the test series over the interest now shifts to the ODI series between Sri Lanka and South Africa. The series comprises of five games with no T 20 game. The first game of the series starts on January 11 and ends on the January 22. Once again the history book records that Sri Lanka hasn’t won an ODI series in South Africa up to now. In fact on two previous occasions the Lankans have been embarrassed by massive margins of five games to one in 2001 and four games to one in 2003. The Sri Lankans had their revenge when the South Africans were bashed five games to nil in 2004 when they toured this country. So the available evidence is that it will not be anything different to the test series and that is the visiting team has always struggled with nothing impressive to show.

The Sri Lankans have selected an interesting line up with the concentration being on the younger and less experienced players too. The selection of Lahiru Thirimanne as the spare batsmen makes very interesting reading. Considered a solid and technically sound opener devoid of the usual bashers approach Thirimanne surprisingly made his debut as an opener in ODI cricket before being chosen more as test match material. The current ODI squad has the two regular openers plus Mahela Jayawardene who is keen to open too. Hence Thirimanne’s opportunities of play may be limited though his inclusion should be considered a good decision.

The recall of Kosala Kulasekera is also an excellent decision by the selectors as Kulasekera has in him the ability to be a more than a useful number seven and a handy seamer who could get through ten cheap overs. Kulasekera is a player who is very good against spin and could be useful in the power play overs too. However, South Africa is not a spin oriented nation with the accent mainly on pace, it will be a challenge for Kulasekera to prove his mettle. With Thisara Perera, the batsman not living upto expectations, Sri Lanka needs an all rounder who can bat behind Mathews and Kulasekera has been given that mantle. Kulasekera did just that when he made a fine ninety in a practice game just before finalising the squad. On a pitch with plenty of seam movement Kulasekera did play a mature innings which clinched his spot in the ODI squad.

The return of Nuwan Kulasekera after injury will naturally strengthen the Sri Lankan seam bowling department which lacked experience during the test series. Chanaka Welegedara sadly lacked the support and the inclusion of Nuwan Kulasekera will give the bowling the much needed stability. Besides being a more than handy seam bowler who is nippy in favourable conditions, his batting lower in the order too can be depended upon to get the team twenty to thirty runs. His technique for somebody batting as low as number eight or nine is good and I must say he should be seriously considered as a permanent number eight in the line up. Besides Thirimanne and the two Kulasekera’s Lasith Malinga who is now retired from Test Cricket and Upul Tharanga now an One Day Specialist will join the squad which looks strong and balanced.

The retaining of Ajantha Mendis should be lauded through Suraj Randiv the tall off spinning all rounder should consider himself very unlucky to have missed out again. The question will be who can he replace on the current squad? Ajantha Mendis is a freak and should be used on pitches which have a tinge of green. He is unknown to the South African batsmen and if he could bowl tight lines and lengths, he could be the match winner for Sri Lanka. The other spinner Hearth an old fashioned left arm spinner who has created so much of difficulty for the South African batsmen has earned his place in the ODI squad with not just his bowling but with some useful batting too. Skipper Dilshan will have a readymade insurance in Herath when containment is needed. However the Dilemma will be to play both spinners in the side as the pitches in South Africa has nothing for them.

Looking at Sri Lanka’s past performance in South Africa, the stats are not at all encouraging. Sri Lankans have just one score of more than three hundred to show when they made 319/8 at Centurion whilst they have been dismissed for less than one hundred and fifty on three occasions in the same country. The best individual performances for Sri Lanka from the current players have been in 2001 when Sangakkara managed just over one hundred and sixty runs in six games whilst Mahela Jayawardene had just one hundred and fifty seven runs in the same series. Nothing inspiring to talk off though at the beginning of the test series too the stats weren’t very dissimilar either! The difference between now and then is, the Sri Lankan current crop of batsmen are more experienced and are definitely on par with the best in the world. I wonder whether a Sri Lankan team ever had batsmen of the calibre of Tharanga, Dilshan, Sangakkara and Jayawardane playing in the same ODI team at the same time then.

This will be a key factor as besides the four the Lankans have players of the calibre of Chandimal, Mathews and Tirimanne to choose from. I personally like the look of the ODI team which is better than the test team. At least it has the correct blend and experience to challenge the best sides in world cricket. The bowling line up which will be spearheaded by the highly respected Lasith Malinga can definitely restrict the free scoring South African batsmen too. The clever variation coupled with his deadly Yorkers Malinga at present is easily the most feared fast bowler in ODI cricket. It won’t be surprising if the South African batsmen decide to target the other bowlers whilst treating Malinga with respect. Hence it will be imperative that the likes of Dilhara Fernando and Thisara Perera too are at the top of their game with the ball to ensure that the pressure is maintained.

I am sure the ODI series will not be as one sided as the tests series was expected to be. It will be a much tougher and a closer series. Let’s hope that history will be made in this series too.

- The Sunday Leader

Posted on 2012-01-10 08:45:23
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QUESTION?

Should Dilshan have continued until Cricket World Cup 2019?

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THE DAY'S QUOTE

“That was pathetic. No excuse at all. The whole team is responsible. Whoever the captain is, we have to back him and try and support him. The captain has to do so many other stuff. All the 11 guys must back him and support him.” “We have addressed the issue of finishing off the overs on time in the past as well, but it cropped up again. It’s so unfortunate to see Upul going out as he is a crucial player in our set up. He batted well against South Africa and it’s so unfortunate. This can’t happen again,” - Angelo Mathews

FEEDBACK/COMMENTS

Cricket is a game of fine margins and Mathews is set to be a modern great. Hang in their Angie, this team can achieve something on this tour. Thirimane and the youngsters form was a real positive. Prasad was missed. Chameera should be persisted with. If Bairstow was our early outcome could have been very different.

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