Sri Lanka-Australia ODI review

Batting failures contribute towards defeat

By Sa’adi Thawfeeq
The middle-order batting which, has been the bane of Sri Lanka in one-day international cricket for quite awhile was not the only contributing factor towards the country’s 3-2 defeat by Australia in the five-match one-day series. On this occasion the failure of the top order batting was also partly responsible for Sri Lanka ending on the losing side. The losing margin was similar to the last occasion Australia toured Sri Lanka in 2004 under Ricky Ponting. On this occasion it was his successor Michael Clarke who tasted success. Sri Lanka has lost two back-to-back five-match series by 3-2 margins the last to England in July.

That by the fourth match Australia had virtually wrapped up the series with a 3-1 lead showed how badly Sri Lanka played. Winning the fifth and final game was some consolation for Sri Lanka but the final 3-2 result was not a true reflection of how they played. Totals of 191, 208 and 132 were not going to win you matches and so it proved for it brought Australia their three victories. By getting out for such paltry totals Sri Lanka batsmen were asking their bowlers to perform miracles against the no. 1 ranked ODI side.
On each occasion it was the failure of the top order that contributed to the totals. The two instances Sri Lanka won the top order got runs – 286-9 in the third ODI and the middle-order eventually fired in the final match helping Sri Lanka recover from a poor start 32-3 to chase down Australia’s score of 211 and win by five wickets. Although they won, it was not by any means convincing because Sri Lanka were made to work hard for every run despite the fact that Australia, having won the series, rested their two key fast bowlers Brett Lee and Doug Bollinger for the final match.

As Sri Lanka showed in the third ODI which they won by a compelling margin of 78 runs, they have the batting line-up to run up match-winning totals but what they lacked was the consistency. Sri Lanka’s batting coach Marvan Atapattu, a batting perfectionist in his time said, “It’s more to do with application than anything else. We know the potential that we have, but what we have seen and what I have experienced is that we have not gone all the way to show what we are made of. It’s consistency in application that we lack. If we apply ourselves consistently I think we would do well. Other than for one or two batsmen it is nothing to do with technique or anything like that. It’s more to do with application. After all we haven’t batted the full quota of 50 overs other than on one occasion which is a must in ODIs. Being a team ranked no. 2 we should be doing much more than what we have experienced.”

However Atapattu’s following statement: “It is the duty of the captain and me as batting coach to make the best use of the batsmen selected in the squad. There is a lack of consistency in the batting line-up that is a problem with the squad that we have been given of which we don’t have any control of.” Does it hint the fact that Atapattu is not happy with the batsmen he has been given? If that is the case one wonders whom Atapattu had in mind. As batting coach he is not allowed to voice his opinion on team selections.
One of the good things of having a batting coach is that he is there to look at defects in our batsmen. In that aspect he has discovered that promising top order bat Dinesh Chandimal had a technical fault in his batting which he had picked up after the tour of England. They have sent him to do some rehabilitation work and iron out his faults before returning to the team as a better equipped batsman, which will do a world of good for his game. He is one of the brightest young batting prospects that Sri Lanka have unearthed in the recent past.
“Chandimal has changed a bit since he got his last fifty at Manchester. He needs to sort out a few technical issues before he hits the big scene again. There is nothing wrong with his hitting he is a fantastic hitter of the ball probably the best in the country today. He needs to fine-tune certain areas before he faces a good bowling attack like the Australians next time around,” said Atapattu.
Sri Lanka’s middle order has now become a thorn in the flesh of the national selectors. They have tried at least five batsmen to fit into that position over a two-year period without much success starting with Chamara Kapugedera, then Chamara Silva, Thilan Samaraweera, Thilina Kandamby and Jeevan Mendis. That Sri Lanka keep persisting with these batsmen even today shows there is marked lack of talented middle order one-day batsmen. It is not so in the case of their Test batting line-up which is pretty solid stretching down to Prasanna Jayawardene at no. 7.

Sri Lanka’s two victories were fashioned out by fast bowler Lasith Malinga who is easily the best bowler in the short format of the game today – fifty-over and Twenty20. His five-wicket haul coupled with Upul Tharanga’s century paved the way for Sri Lanka’s victory in the third ODI played at Hambantota. Malinga was again the star when he knocked the bottom-half of the Australian batting in the final ODI at the R Premadasa Stadium when he became the first bowler in ODI history to perform the hat-trick on three occasions. His late burst saw Australia fold up dramatically from 210-5 to 211 all out losing five wickets for just one run.
The Australians on their part had done their homework thoroughly on the Sri Lankan batsmen and knew exactly where to bowl to them. Brett Lee, Doug Bollinger and Mitchell Johnson did not allow the batsmen the freedom to free their arms but most of the time kept them in check with some well directed short pitched deliveries and also bowling a fuller length which didn’t allow them to get onto the front foot to drive. They had to score mostly through nudges and behind the wicket or take the chance of hitting across the line if they wanted runs square of the wicket. There was a lot of discipline in the Australian bowling ranks and this made heavy weather on the Lankan batting line-up. The only occasion their bowlers were slightly off target the Lankan batsmen pounced on them to run up the highest total of the series – 286-9.

The return of the experienced trio, captain Michael Clarke, ex-skipper Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey for the ODI series made a world of difference to the Australian batting line-up from the one they put out for the two Twenty20 Internationals both of which they lost. Clarke (242 runs), Ponting (196) and Shane Watson (185) made more runs than the highest run-getter for Sri Lanka – Mahela Jayawardene (180).
Sri Lanka began the series with the hope of dismantling Australia as the top ranked ODI side. To do that, they needed to win by a 4-1 margin. The manner in which they performed Sri Lanka didn’t deserve to occupy that spot. There are plenty of chinks in their armour to rectify before they can be ranked no. 1. They never played like a team that was World Cup finalists.


Ashel’s century guides Wesley to U-17 pre-quarters

A brilliant century by vice-captain Ashel Kariyawasam (180 off 127 balls, 27 fours, 4 sixes) and a quick-fire 65 off 25 balls (7 fours, 4 sixes) from Tharika Ediriweera saw Wesley beat Rahula Matara by 139 runs in their final second round match of the under-17 schools cricket tournament and qualify for the pre-quarterfinals at Campbell Park.
The feature of the Wesley innings was 149 runs seventh-wicket stand between Kariyawasam and Ediriweera which helped Wesley recover from a shaky 32-3 to an imposing 360-8 off 50 overs.
Scores: Wesley 360-8 (50) (A Kariyawasam 180, T Ediriweera 65, M Wickramasinghe 28, B Muzammil 27, N Kasun 3/25)
Rahula 221-9 (50) (U Nimsara 44, H Rajapaksa 38, M Galappathy 37, P Bandaranayake 28, N Kasun 21 n.o., B Muzammil 3/28, D Jayasinghe 2/40, S Jayawardene 2/54)