The trophy hype has begun to spin full circle with the warm up matches gaining momentum. Of course, the build up focus is on tomorrow’s game between Sri Lanka and New Zealand at Warwickshire. While for the record, both sides have lost the first of two games, from a Sri Lankan point of view, the loss to Australia being in a very tight finish, Angelo Mathews’ team would thus not be dented when they take on the Kiwis at The Oval on June 3 . Comparatively, Sri Lanka has the edge having also won handsomely over Scotland the second of two games though they suffered a shock defeat in the first game. New Zealand has failed to touch wood recently. Badly beaten by Bangladesh in their last series ODI, defeat to India on Sunday in a warm up is demoralizing. They were bowled out for 189 in 38.4 overs before India cruised to 129 for 3 wickets to win on the Duckworth & Lewis basis after rain interrupted.
From a Sri Lankan perspective, there was little difference when comparing the 300-plus totals mounted by Sri Lanka and Australia. Sri Lanka 318 for 7; Australia 319 for 8. Realistically, the Sri Lankan camp would be pleased with their batting form. Except for a few blemishes in the top order, the line up has rounded off quite a silken route. More than anything, skipper, Mathews’ form straight from the blocks in a long injury hiatus has been highly buoying stuff going by his courageous 95 against the Aussies. It was an innings reviving effort around which No. 7 batsman Asela Gunaratne came to the party blazing. Niroshan Dickwella too produced the type of form the team management would be looking at going in to the championship proper.
His breezy 49 was ideally the start Sri Lanka needed reminiscent of the Sanath Jayasuriya starts Sri Lanka got off during his time. Upul Tharanga was lukewarm, but has the experience and tenacity to come good when the occasion demands. That Sri Lanka’s batting carries depth to the tail-end is arm strong stuff. Seekuge Prasanna’s whirlwind 31 against the Aussies did demonstrate the fact. The Kiwi game would see either Tharanga or Kusal Janith Perera pair with Dickwella as the selectors glue to the final decision as to who would open in the opening game against South Africa.
Sri Lanka will need to tighten up the bowling department. Ace slinger Lasith Malinga in the pack would be a pep up as he is a bowler who has the knack to improve match by match as his 1 for 38 against the Aussies proved to be quite economical. New Zealand does have an experienced bowling lineup, and it would be interesting how best the pack that India put to the sword with skipper Virat Kohli striking a half century, would perform against a Sri Lankan batting that has begun to show signs of gelling.
India was comfortably placed at 129/3, with Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni batting when rain interrupted play.
Indian pacers shone the brightest as Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar ended the innings with three wickets each. While Kohli himself slammed a half-century during the chase and opener Shikhar Dhawan chipped in with a brilliant 40.
By Srian Obeyesekere
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-