Sri Lanka sweat over top-order form despite win

Despite a comfortable seven-wicket win in the opening match of the Round 1 clash against Namibia, Sri Lanka batter Bhanuka Rajapaksa believes there is still scope for improvement for the team going ahead.

Led by the pace trio – Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Kumara – Sri Lanka managed to bowl out Namibia for 96, with the three pacers combining to return figures of 4 for 45 from 11.3 overs. The two spinners – Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana combined to snare five wickers.

The decision to bowl first paid dividends as Sri Lanka could take advantage of the dew in the second innings. Rajapaksa believes, going forward in the tournament, dew will play a big part and give an advantage to the chasing teams.

One of the reasons we wanted to bowl first is that we knew there would be some dew as the evening went on,” Rajapaksa said on Monday. “The warm-up games we played in Oman, the dew factor was large and the bowlers couldn’t grip the ball when they were bowling second. We knew the conditions would be similar here in Abu Dhabi.

“Going forward, the toss will be important but we can’t always rely on it. We need to practice with a wet ball in the nets. It could be a challenge for us but the boys are ready for it.”

The former T20 champions did have an early stutter in the chase, when the top three were dismissed within the powerplay, with only 26 runs on the board. However, a steady unbeaten 50-ball 74-run partnership between Rajapaksa and Avishka Fernando helped Sri Lanka chase down the modest target in 13.3 overs at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi to help the team go on top of the Group A points table.

However, Rajapaksa believes there are still areas to level up on when they face Ireland in their next encounter – who will be coming into the match after an impressive display against Netherlands. The concerns at the top of the batting order being the most critical of those.

“It’s always a learning curve for any team and any individual,” Rajapaksa said on Monday. “We can’t be happy with all of the performance because there are many parts we need to improve. But we can be happy about the performance of the front-line bowlers because they set the tone for us and it made it much easier for us batters.

“We’ve been struggling in the powerplay to get runs and not lose wickets, so there’s a bit of a concern when it comes to the top-order batters they are struggling to get runs and it is not in our favour at the minute.

“Going forward we are looking to correct the mistakes from past games. It was a bad day for the top order but we’ll take it in a positive way and going forward, we’ll do the right things.”

Despite the heavy defeat, which leaves Namibia with an uphill task going ahead in the competition, there were a few positives for them. Apart from useful contributions from the middle order in an otherwise ordinary batting display, the bowlers also caused trouble to Sri Lanka’s top order before dew made it more challenging for them.

Craig Williams, who top-scored with 29, feels Namibia have to improve on their performance in order to beat a deflated Netherlands team, who too would be hungry for a win in their next game.

“It’s quite disappointing because we’ve trained for the last two years and we knew what was coming,” Williams said of the defeat. “On the night, our execution was quite poor.

“The Sri Lankan bowling attack is well-oiled. They didn’t give us much to hit – they got the right height on their bouncers and executed it really well. The batting unit needs to pull up its socks and get something better on the board for the bowlers to defend.

“We still have high spirits though and we walked off the field with smiles on our faces. We knew Sri Lanka would be tough and we have to put this behind us as quickly as possible. We back ourselves against Ireland and the Netherlands and let’s see where those games take us.”



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