Sri Lanka’s high scoring 356-run warmth was put to evaporation by New Zealand in a 6-wicket overhauling that once again showed up the bowling department wanting in their final warm iup match at Edgbaston, Birmingham. That New Zealand effort orchestrated by a 76-ball 116 and fine edged by a 157-run second wicket alliance with skipper Kane Williamson contributing 88 and retiring was salt rubbing to the wounds inflicted on the Sri Lankan bowlers as New Zealand finished on 359 for 4 wickets to win with 23 balls to spare. Of the recognized bowlers only star performer Lasith Malinga did not feature in yesterday’s game, and it was the second time Sri Lanka’s 300-plus efforts were overhauled, the Aussies having done so in the previous warm up that must certainly leave the Sri Lankan think tanks in search for clues as to how to double up for the championship stage of the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy. They play their opening game against South Africa on June 3.
As it was, the perfect batting scripting by Sri Lanka that was fronted by skipper Upul Tharanga’s superb century – 110 off 158 balls spanning 10 boundaries and 4 sixes following a quick fire 65-run opening partnership with Niroshan Dickwella who made 25 off 42 balls, was negated by the inability of the bowlers to come good. Half ce nturies by Kusal Mendis (57) and Dinesh Chandimal (55) and a run a ball 38 by Kusal Janith Perera did give the Sri Lankan camp a satisfying leverage as to how the batting line up would be for the all important game against a tough South Africa. Kapugedera, who was shaped up well having struck 70 odd against Australia looks the most likely choice ahead of Kusal Janith Perera for the big encounter that is expected to be packed with 7 specialists including skipper Mathews and the bludgeoning fast bowling all-rounder Thisara Perera who would be joined by Malinga and Kulasekera or Nuwan Pradeep with the two spinners Lakshan Sandakan and Seekuge Prasanna the likely team composition.
The effortless mannerism with which the New Zealand bowlers toyed with the Lankan attack would be cause for concern taking in to account Sandakan’s 80 runs in 9 overs without a wicket with Prasanna’s 2 for 63 in 10 overs the best figures. With the Oval wicket favouring pace and bounce whether Sri Lanka would rethink having an extra fast bowler and a solitary spinners would be a possible option too.
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-