Pakistan recovered from their loss to West Indies to stun hosts England and Sri Lanka recovered from a ten-wicket defeat against New Zealand to turn tables on fast-improving Afghanistan, a match which at one time they never looked like winning after suffering a dramatic middle order batting collapse.
Sri Lanka skipper Dimuth Karunaratne knows the win was a confidence booster for his team but it was far from what they want to be as a complete unit.
“We needed a win to give us the confidence. With any team that’s what we want and we finally got it. But we have some areas to improve, especially the batting we need to focus on and make sure what happened at Cardiff does not happen again. Overall, it has boosted our confidence ahead of the Pakistan match,” said Karunaratne at the pre-match media conference here on Thursday.
“It is a good flat wicket rather than the one we got at Cardiff. Pakistan put a big score against England on the board and kept taking wickets. Those are the key areas. Against any team we have to do the same thing. You have to put runs on the board and give a chance to the bowlers to take wickets,” he said.
Sri Lanka are looking at making only one change from the side that won against Afghanistan, but that could change with the state of the weather. Rain is forecast for Friday and the possibility is that there may not be a full game.
“We may drop a fast bowler for a batsman. We hope to play Jeevan Mendis, but we have not decided who will sit out. Because of the weather we will take a call on that tomorrow. At the moment we are looking at only one change,” said Karunaratne.
The batting order that Sri Lanka put out for the Afghanistan game according to Karunaratne was “the best batting line-up we can produce”.
“We made the change in the batting line-up against Afghanistan because we wanted to give Kusal Perera the freedom to play his shots and give him a licence to play the way he wants, a free hand. And if an early wicket goes for (Lahiru) Thirimanne to come and consolidate. We don’t want to change many things,” said Karunaratne.
The change was fruitful for Sri Lanka to a point because Perera and Karunaratne put on 92 for the first wicket and after the captain’s departure, Thirimanne and Perera took the score to 144 for one before the Lankan middle order fell apart with seven wickets falling for 34 runs and they finally finished scoring a meagre 201.
Their biggest failures have been Kusal Mendis who has been dismissed for 0 and 2 and Mathews who has still to score a single run in the current World Cup having collected two ducks.
“Our middle order comprises players who have experienced this type of situation before. Kusal Mendis scored well in the practices games and also in the South Africa series. Failing in two matches I don’t think it has anything to do with his talent. He only needs a start to get going,” said Karunaratne.
“Mathews is a player with a lot of experience and he has faced similar kinds of situations on a number of occasions. I don’t think it will be a problem for him to come out of it. He is the most experienced player in the side and he is sure to pick himself up and start contributing. I have plenty of faith in Mathews and Mendis and once they get going you cannot stop them from scoring runs,” he said.
Karunaratne admitted that there was a huge difference in the team following their win over Afghanistan which they hope to carry onto the match against Pakistan.
“There is a big difference in the team after the win and I am very happy at the way they reacted after the win. We batted badly but our bowlers made up for it by raising their hands up. That’s how it should be. If one unit fails the other must compensate for it. It is a big bonus if that can happen. If we can go with that confidence we can surely win,” he said.
Pakistan on the other hand are expecting a good contest from Sri Lanka provided the weather stays fine.
“You have always got to be respectful and Sri Lanka have got good bowlers. I have just come out of a batting meeting to see their skills. And it should be a good game. And hopefully the weather stays away. It is a bit poor, the forecast,” said Pakistan batting coach Grant Flower, the former Zimbabwe cricketer. “I don’t think we’d be targeting any one individual, though they have got some good seamers and some spinners with very good skills. The guys are fully focussed and they know what to expect.”
Like Sri Lanka, Pakistan have also regained their confidence after their win over England. “Since we have won, it took off a lot of the pressure definitely, having gone through those strings of defeats. Psychologically, that lifts a huge weight from their shoulders,” Flower said.