Creditable win it was
Lanka pulled off a creditable 97-run win over New Zealand in the curtain
raiser of the Compaq Cup Triangular ODI tournament match played at
Premadasa International Stadium on Tuesday.
It was one of the greatest comebacks in ODI history as the home team
bounced back to register a comfortable win at the end in the low-scoring
game. It was the bowlers who called the tune in the opening match of the
series, which also features India.
Sri Lanka came to the Tri-Series opener on a low note, having lost
both the 20Twenty international against New Zealand. In fact, Sri Lanka,
still searching for their maiden 20Twenty home win, continued their lean
run, suffering their fourth successive 20Twenty defeat on home soil.
In contrast, the morale of the Kiwis was high, having won the
two-match series against Sri Lanka 2-0. It was a disappointing
performance by Sri Lanka who failed to live up to expectations as the
runners-up of the last 20Twenty World Cup. New Zealand started from
where they left in the 20Twenty series when they had Sri Lanka reeling
at 69 for 5 in the 26th over.
With half the batsmen back in the pavilion and less than half of the
full quota of 50 overs left, it appeared that Sri Lanka would not make
any impact. Early departures of top order batsmen Tillakaratne Dilshan
(4), Sanath Jayasuriya (7), Mahela Jayawardene (0), Kumar Sangakkara
(18) and Thilina Kandambi (15), put the Kiwis in the box seat.
But it was then that the glorious uncertainties of cricket started
Evergreen Thilan Samaraweera, joined by young Angelo Mathews started
the repair job and they did it with a great deal of responsibility. At
the end, they managed to raise 127 valuable runs for the sixth wicket in
22.2 overs which laid the foundation for that great fight back.
Samaraweera played the sheet anchor role with a majestic home made
century 104 off 124 balls with ten boundaries. The supportive role
played by inexperienced Mathews was commendable. He seems to be
cementing his place at every given opportunity and here too, he played
an aggressive knock of 51 off 60 balls. When the seniors were failing
miserably and when his team was struggling for runs, it was heartening
to see young Mathews showing what courage and determination is all
Even when Sri Lanka finally closed their innings at a modest 216 for
7 in 50 overs, the Kiwis were still holding the key to the three-nation
opener. But Thilan Thushara made sure that new Zealand start their
innings under pressure by removing opener Jesse Ryder, leg before wicket
for a duck.
Sri Lanka continued to apply pressure on the Kiwi top order with
Thushara's new ball partner Nuwan Kulasekera capturing two quick wickets
in the fifth over of the New Zealand innings. Quick bowler Lasith
Malinga's four-wicket haul finally shattered New Zealand's early hopes.
Malinga struck thrice in a decisive 19th over to tighten screws on the
New Zealand coffin.
Nevertheless, Sri Lanka should not be overconfident after this
True that the victory margin may look quite comfortable but the
manner in which the home team earned victory was not that great. The
Kiwis had everything except the winning formula. A target of 217 in 50
overs is definitely a reachable one even though they had to do their run
chase under lights.
But the hoodoo of side batting second at Premadasa International
Stadium continued and it was the Kiwis this time who were the
unfortunate victims. Since 2004, the team winning the toss has batted
first on 25 out of 31 occasions.
In the last 12 ODIs played at the Premadasa International Stadium,
teams choosing to bat first have emerged victorious. Despite that sweet
win, Sri Lanka has to put their house in order, if they are to overpower
India and win the Compaq Cup. Especially, Sri Lanka's top order must
click well to put healthy totals on the board. They cannot expect lady
luck to smile on them all the time and unless a few big innings come
from Tillakaratne Dilshan, Jayasuriya, Sangakkara and Jayawardene, Sri
Lanka could find it hard as the tournament progresses.
It is nice to see Lasith Malinga regaining his old touch and if he
concentrates on his discipline and concentrate on the game well, he is
capable of coming out with even greater achievements in the years to
He must make full use of his talent and be determined to be more
consistent with his performance.
Paceman Kulasekera too is continuing from where he has left in 2008
In 15 matches in 2009, he has so far captured 28 wickets at 22.68 to
emerge as Sri Lanka's premier quick bowler in limited over cricket.
Despite their impressive record in Tests, Sri Lanka has gone down to
the seventh position in the ICC World rankings for ODIs. Hence, the
Compaq Cup provides ideal opportunity for Sri Lanka to regain the lost
prestige. At present, India is placed second while the Kiwis take the
fourth place in the ICC ODI World rankings.
It would be a tall order for Sri Lanka to win the title but they are
capable of doing that, considering their impressive home record. Sri
Lanka narrowly won their last ODI series against Pakistan 3-2, losing
the last two games after securing the series early with three
In contrast, India has won their last two ODI series in Sri Lanka
while New Zealand too has a similar record.
Unless Sri Lanka fire all cylinders and strengthen their batting,
they will have a tough time in meeting the challenge thrown by India in
their next game scheduled for Saturday.