Angelo Mathews

The struggle to acclimatize – Slow starters

Sri Lanka’s batting has imploded in the first match of every One Day International (ODI) series they have played in 2014, which indicates that their batsmen have initially struggled to adapt to the demands of the conditions.

As far as ODIs are concerned, for Sri Lanka, the year 2014 effectively kicked off with them playing Bangladesh in February after having spent the previous two months in the United Arab Emirates locking horns with Pakistan. Their batsmen clearly exhibited difficulties in coming to terms with the Bangladeshi conditions, slumping to 67/8 in the first ODI, at Dhaka. Thanks to a match-saving knock from Thisara Perera, the visitors managed to score 180, which proved to be enough to win the match.

By the time they won the Asia Cup and the World Cup T20, both of which were held in Bangladesh, beating more favoured teams, they were a well-oiled machine.

When the tour to the British Isles began, Sri Lanka once again struggled to adapt to the conditions in Ireland with their batting order only managing 219 against the home team. In the first match of the 5-match series against England, Sri Lanka were bowled out for a total of 144. Even though the visitors eventually emerged victorious in that series, they carried with them the same problem for the next series, as well, this time failing to chase down South Africa’s 304 at their own backyard.

Once again at home against Pakistan, the Lankan top order fumbled; however, thanks to the lower-middle order, they reached a modest 275 runs, which – at the end of day – was not adequate.

In all, Sri Lanka have lost the first match of a series 4 out of 5 times this year. Their 7-match series against New Zealand and the two Tests that follow would help them learn the art of survival Down Under and attune better.

Chasing huge totals – Not a single successful 300+ run chase this year

Sri Lankan team has been too reliant on its bowling attack to win matches. This is best explained by the fact that, in 2014, they are yet to chase a target when the required-rate has been in excess of six, with the highest run-chase being 265 against India, riding on the back of a stupendous innings from Kumar Sangakkara.

The Islanders have been stalled all four times when they had to score more than run-a-ball to win a match. They have found building partnerships a tougher ask when requested to perform an uphill task to offset the poor performance of the bowling attack, which has generally been the pointed edge of Sri Lanka’s sword.

Against England, when Sri Lanka were expected to chase down 247 in 32 overs, their batsmen succumbed to 144 all out with the highest partnership being 44. The highest partnership that the side has managed in 6 rpo+ run-chases is 83, a tame one between Angelo Mathews and Ashan Priyanjan against South Africa in the 3rd ODI when their chances of winning that match had significantly petered out.

OppositionTargetFinal ScoreHighest Partnership
England247 (32 overs)14444
South Africa30422952
South Africa33925783
India36319431

Sri Lanka need to learn the art of maintaining a balance between attack and defense when chasing huge totals. One glaring mistake that the batting order made was to look for boundaries, which led to them often compromising on opportunities to take singles. Except in the first game against South Africa when Sangakkara scored 88, Sri Lanka failed to have any of their top 4 bat through the innings.

Sangakkara has traditionally been the sheet anchor of Sri Lanka; if they are to depend on him to increase the pace of of the innings, then the team management will have to find a someone to fill his role. With the 50-over World Cup less than 100 days away, it ain’t happening.

Ashan Priyanjan’s succession of failures  – the odd one out 

Ashan Priyanjan made a promising start to his ODI career by smashing the Pakistani bowling attack to record his highest ODI score of 74, but, since then, he has failed to impress, save his 15-ball 39 against Pakistan in August. Priyanjan’s role has been to finish the innings, but he has rarely done it to perfection.

Even though his part time off-spin has given Sri Lanka the much-needed balance, how long will the selectors forbear his batting failures for his part time off-breaks is a question that needs to be answered.

Priyanjan has played 21 games so far averaging a measly 23.64 with the bat with two half-centuries. His off-breaks have earned him 5 wickets at an average of 46.60.

Is the persistence with Priyanjan the result of Sri Lanka’s lack of options after Dinesh Chandimal’s and Lahiru Thirimanne’s underwhelming performances? Or is Priyanjan retained to show Chandimal and Thirimanne that they can no more find places in the side solely on potential and that they need to do exceptionally well to make a return?

Sending the duo back to work on their basics has obviously yielded better results. The two young guns have tangoed well to win gold in the Asian Games and their returns against the West Indies A are encouraging.

Inability to finish innings – Mathews back to No. 6? 

This may come as a surprise with Sri Lanka possessing one of the best finishers in the modern game: Angelo Mathews.

OppositionFinal ScoreRuns in last 10 oversWickets lost in last 10 oversMathews in during last 10?

If yes, strike-rate

Thisara in during last 10?

If so, strike-rate

Bangladesh180492No140.35
Bangladesh289/61002143.580
Pakistan296/664211066.66
Afghanistan253/6791109.7582.60
Ireland219/6812NoNo
England256/887485.71No
England300/9836100No
South Africa267/1060689.47No
Pakistan275/71053104.7130
Pakistan310/9101380.86180.55
India274/869291.0890.90
India242673NoNo

* Sri Lanka’s 67 all out against England has been ignored

The above table shows that Sri Lanka have been inconsistent in effectively finishing off an innings. Thisara, Sri Lanka’s wrecker-in-chief at the death, wasn’t featuring in the team regularly till the Pakistan series. But whenever the big hitting all-rounder has fired, Sri Lanka have plundered runs in the last 10 overs. Mathews’ promotion to number five has made him unavailable during the death in certain games, which has compounded the issue.

Even though Sri Lanka has on an average scored in excess of 80 in the last 10 overs, they have lost too many wickets, resulting in them not reaching the target that they would have hoped to get.

The team lost too many wickets in the middle overs against India, which deprived them from going bonkers at the death. But the lower-middle order’s failures against South Africa and England are alarming. Sri Lanka would ideally want Thisara to come in during the last 10, not prior to that. Mathews could also consider demoting himself to number 6 to shepherd the tail so as to achieve the necessary last minute surge.

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