A series that didn’t serve the purpose | Daily News



A series that didn’t serve the purpose

Kusal Mendis
Kusal Mendis

The recently concluded five-match One-Day International series between Sri Lanka and South Africa and won quite comprehensively by the host country by a margin of 5-0 hardly served the purpose for Sri Lanka whereas World Cup selection are concerned.

Neither did the batsmen nor the bowlers came up with any noteworthy contributions that could have placed their names of the national cricket selectors’ short list for the World Cup.

All what Sri Lanka had to show was just three half-centuries in the entire series batting wise and the emergence of Dhananjaya de Silva as a useful batting all-rounder with his ability to bowl off-breaks and take wickets, which could lend a nice balance to the side now that Angelo Mathews has been restricted strictly to batting only.

Earlier Mathews played the role of all-rounder with his ability to bowl medium-pace deliveries, but his continuous run of injuries when he does bowl has reduced that option and being a valuable and experienced ODI campaigner his presence in the middle as a batsman has overweighed everything else.

Sri Lanka’s inexperience to front up with South Africa’s world class pace attack of Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi, newcomer Anrich Nortje and Andile Phehelukwayo and the leg-spin of Imran Thahir on the fast and bouncy pitches saw them hardly give the Proteas a real contest in the series.

In all five matches the Lankans failed to bat out their full quota of 50 overs which is the main worry. Their highest total in the series was 231 which they scored in the first match of the series at Johannesburg. They topped 200plus only on one other occasion in the fifth and final ODI at Cape Town.

By the batsmen not putting UP sufficient runs on the board the Lankan bowlers have been at a great disadvantage, as they cannot set attacking wicket-taking fields as they have at the same time to defend a small total. As a result the bowlers too have proved to be ineffective especially in the middle overs where Sri Lanka like its batting are struggling to find wicket-taking bowlers. The inability to take wickets in the middle overs has allowed the opposition to preserve their wickets and go after the bowling in the last ten overs which has proved to be quite detrimental to Lanka’s chances of winning.

Sri Lanka apart from Bangladesh are the only country without a single win for the 2019 calendar year in ODI cricket. They have played 8 and lost all of them. It is not a good record going into the World Cup in England at the end of May, but one-day cricket is such a funny game that fortunes can change at the flip of a coin.

Sri Lanka are not going to get those fast bouncy pitches which they experienced in South Africa in the World Cup in England. The pitches are going to be flat and batsman friendly and that is where Sri Lanka has to get their act right. If they can sort out their batting line-up there is no reason why they cannot score freely and make totals in excess of 300. They showed that they can do it on flat pitches in New Zealand although they lost the series 3-0.

It is not only the batting that needs to be sorted out but also the bowling in the middle overs where after Lasith Malinga gets the initial breakthrough none of the other bowlers are able to pick up wickets. This area has to be addressed strongly if Sri Lanka are to keep the opposition within their limits.

The absence of any significant performance in the series has forced the selectors’ hand to use the SLC Provincial 50-over tournament as the yardstick to make the final selections for the World Cup, although this may not be the ideal method. It’s nothing like playing against strong opposition to select your best side.

Four teams with a total of 84 players have been selected for the tournament which will be played in Dambulla and Pallekele on pitches that would be almost similar to what Sri Lanka will experience in England.

However with virtually all the 15 World Cup places up for grabs, the players are certain to make use of the opportunity to catch the selectors’ eye.

As for South Africa, if they had used the Lankan series to test their own ODI strength they would be only fooling themselves, for the opposition they got hardly stretched them and put them under any pressure. They know for sure that there are other countries out there that can give them a good run for their money, and they should be quite aware of that factor. 

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