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How Far Will Luck Take Sri Lanka in Asia Cup 2022 as Super 4s Begin

By: G Krishnan

News18.com

Last Updated: September 03, 2022, 11:14 IST

Dubai (UAE)

Sri Lanka to face Afghanistan in Asia Cup 2022 Super 4 (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

Sri Lanka to face Afghanistan in Asia Cup 2022 Super 4 (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

It would require a collective improvement in their performances if they are to give a good account of themselves against world No. 1-ranked T20 side, India and No. 3 Pakistan and the highly-improved and fearless Afghanistan in the next round

The hosts of the 2022 Asia Cup, Sri Lanka, are alive in the competition. A match they ought to have lost was actually conceded by Bangladesh in a virtual quarterfinal at the Dubai International Stadium on Thursday night.

Though not taking away credit from the Sri Lankans, Bangladesh had only themselves to blame for losing by two wickets in the final over after posting a competitive 183 for seven. Four No Balls, two of them by off-spinner Mahedi Hasan including one in which man of the match Kusal Mendis was caught behind when on 29 in the seventh over, proved to be the turning point.

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The manner in which Sri Lanka, particularly Chamika Karunaratne and Asitha Fernando towards the end, held their nerves even as they lost wickets continuously and were never in the hunt until the last couple of overs had to be admired.

The top-order has been inconsistent and it held true on Thursday. Barring Mendis, who scored his fourth half-century in five T20Is against Bangladesh, and captain Dasun Shanaka, the rest of the batsmen including the big-hitting Bhanuka Rajapaksa have a lot to do if their team is to make a match in the Super Fours that begin on Saturday.

Exactly a week ago, in the tournament opener, Sri Lanka went down to Afghanistan after a top-order collapse. Now that they qualified for the Super Four, Sri Lanka take the confidence from their morale-boosting victory against Bangladesh.

Rajapaksa, who top-scored with 38 against Afghanistan but fell for 11 against Bangladesh, said after Sri Lanka’s thrilling win that the Super Four would be quite interesting. Speaking of the morale after the Afghanistan loss and what the win could do to the team in the next stage, the left-handed batter said:

“We were not expected to get out for 105 (last Saturday). We know Afghanistan have a pretty decent side when it comes to T20 cricket. After losing to Afghanistan, we all went into a shell for a couple of days but we knew how to overcome the situation. We are vastly experienced. A few of us have played 30-40 games each at the international level. What we planned was to beat Bangladesh by hook or by crook. We managed to win against Bangladesh. And the motivation of the players is immense. The confidence is the same. Going forward into the Super Four, it will be quite interesting.”

Sri Lanka do not have a great T20 record in the last couple of years. That the former T20 World Cup champions (they won the title in 2014) have not got a direct entry to this year’s ICC Men’s T20 World Cup because of their rankings and they have to play the qualifying round speaks of their standards in T20.

Like they won on Thursday by registering a record chase in T20Is in Dubai, though they needed a lot of luck going their way in terms of catch being dropped and being caught off No Ball (Mendis being lucky on both the occasions), and also against Australia at home in a dead rubber not long ago from a no-win situation, Sri Lanka come up once in a while with a flash of brilliance. It is consistency that sets champions from the rest. And, Sri Lanka need to come up with good performances more often than not. Only with experience will the young team learn.

The Lankans have been found wanting in almost all the departments. The batting is heavily dependent on Mendis and captain Shanaka that the others have to lift themselves up if they are to contest in Super Four and not merely make up the number.

The Lankan bowling is so inexperienced that they expect leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga and off-spinner Maheesh Theekshana to deliver the goods almost every time. Even if these two bowl well, it has to be a collective effort with their medium-pacers complementing them. It is not just in bowling but also in batting that Lanka have faced problems.

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Opener Pathum Nissanka is inexperienced while Mendis has moved up from middle order to opening and Danushka Gunathilaka, who has opened for a majority of his T20 career and shunted down to No. 4. It is the change in roles that, perhaps, has not allowed them to perform to the full potential.

The fear of failure and being dropped may be working on their minds. The Sri Lankans may be going through a longer transition phase. The youngsters need to be given the confidence and a longer rope so that they have enough time to settle down in the team.

That Sri Lanka also do not have a large pool of talent to pick from make them a bit vulnerable, and hence their string of defeats interspersed with an odd win here and there. Only three wins in 13 T20Is in this calendar year do not make Sri Lanka a force to reckon with.

It would require a collective improvement in their performances if they are to give a good account of themselves against world No. 1-ranked T20 side, India and No. 3 Pakistan and the highly-improved and fearless Afghanistan in the next round. Otherwise, Sri Lanka would be gobbled up, like they were consumed by lowly-ranked Afghanistan in the Asia Cup opener.

And, Sri Lanka would not have luck going in their favour every time nor would India and Pakistan spinners bowl No Balls like the enthusiastic Mahedi Hasan did.

The onus is entirely on Sri Lanka from here on.

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first published:September 03, 2022, 11:14 IST
last updated:September 03, 2022, 11:14 IST