History repeated itself for Sri Lanka once again as their middle and lower order crumbled for third game in a row at Cuttack. While they were lucky to get away with it at Nagpur, the collapse was too magnanimous to allow the visitors to escape in the day-night encounter on Monday. The failure of the middle-order batsmen has meant that the great starts provided by the top three are constantly going in vain.
Most sides would die to have their first three batsmen in supreme form. Unfortunately, the Lankans are just not being able to capitalize on it. And being the most experienced hand in the middle-order, former captain Mahela Jayawardene must accept some part of the blame for the team’s failures. When you consider that the others like Thilina Kandamby and Chamara Kapugedera are relatively inexperienced, a lot of onus naturally falls on Jayawardene to perform. He is capable of not only scoring big runs, but also guiding the youngsters, considering he was leading the same bunch of guys not so long ago. The series is not over yet, so if Jayawardene can step up and deliver, he can still play a pivotal role in turning around Lanka’s fortunes.
Plenty has been written about the exclusion of Sanath Jayasuriya. Many have termed it unfair. True, Jayasuriya has been a great servant of Lankan cricket for two decades, but it is also a fact that he cannot walk into the team just on the basis past achievements. And so keeping sentiments aside, one will realize that the kind of form Upul Tharanga and Tillakartne Dilshan are in, there is no place for Jayasuriya at the top of the other. If anything, he can be slotted in as an all-rounder at number six, replacing one of the youngsters. This ploy was tried in the opening game and though it did not come off, there is no harm in giving it another go considering the brittle resistance the middle-order has been putting up.
The Lankan bowling hasn’t been extraordinary in any sense, but on subcontinent wickets bowlers are bound to be tanked around. Even so, the comeback of Lasith Malinga will be welcomed by the team. He may not have posed many threats to the Indian batsmen at Cuttack, but he can prove to be quite a handful if he gets it right in the coming games. Further, Chanaka Welegedara and rookie spinner Surav Randiv also have been extremely impressive with the ball. Ironically, in the bowling department too, the experienced men like Nuwan Kulasekara and Ajantha Mendis have let the team down. To be fair to Lanka, they have been hit badly by injuries. However, at the international level that cannot be an excuse to under perform.
While the Sri Lankans would be hoping that the middle-order and the bowlers get their act right, at the same time they would also be praying that Dilshan, Tharanga and Sangakkara continue in the same vein. And if all things fall in place, there might as well be another turnaround in the series.
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