Tough times in the desert
|Fervez Mahroof playing the all-rounder role well enough
The happy memories of the World Cup were pushed to the back of the mind in a very short time, courtesy the three ODI’s against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi. A present eleven minus Kumar Sangakkara, Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas will be hard to class as a Sri Lankan team. They were handicapped from the very start.
Judging from the way they played in the opening game, most of the World Cup campaigners seemed drained physically and mentally. Reaching a World Cup final is a climax in any cricketer’s career. Three weeks from then to raise your game at an offshore three match series needs lots of persuasion from within and outside.
Pakistan, as opponents were a totally different mood. There were many players who had been around but not able to cement places. It was an opportunity for them. Shoaib Malik had taken over as the new leader and had much to prove. He also brought about fresh thinking and a youthful enthusiasm. All factors that drive a team towards achieving success and reaching goals.
After thirty overs in the first game the Sri Lankans were outplayed and heading towards finishing with a hopeless score. The ball did seam around during the first hour. It was difficult, but rash strokes made the situation worse.
Fervez Mahroof helped the team to post a respectable total. His half century gave Sri Lanka a chance of pulling off the game. It was the highest score in ODI cricket that Mahroof has achieved and was one of the plusses of the tour. The all rounder playing in the middle order must score runs regularly and score them quickly as well. Often he is required to perform when the chips are down. This was such a situation and Mahroof responded.
The Pakistani’s galloped away in excess of five an over in the first ten overs. It happened again and again in the next two games as well. However, a couple of wickets, including a run out, put Sri Lanka back in the frame. Then, in came Shahid Afridi and he simply exploded. He is one of those batsmen in world cricket, who, when he is in that mood cannot be stopped. He went after Malinga Bandara, smacked him for thirty two in an over and set Pakistan on the road to victory. The second game was a must win for both teams-- for Pakistan to clinch the series and for Sri Lanka to draw level. It was surprising that Sanath Jayasuriya and Lasith Malinga were left out of the game on the grounds of needing a rest. That is looking at from the point of winning the game and then staying in contention to win the series.
Pakistan won the toss, got off to a blistering start, scoring 76 for the loss of one wicket, off ten overs and ended up reaching 313 which was a tough ask for the Sri Lankans, who fell well short and lost by 98 runs.
The batting of Mahela Jayawardena was the main plus point of the series. He made scores of 18, 61 and 83 and shared the Man of the Series with Shahid Afridi. Jayawardena continued his World Cup run both with the bat and as a leader, staying in control at all times. Chamara Silva also continued to impress. Unfortunately, he ran himself out in the first game (one of three batsmen). The scores he made of 47, 21 and 64, indicated a growing maturity and an ability to adjust at the number five batting position.
One of the exercises of this tour was to blood younger players and help others on the fringe to gain experience and establish their positions in the team. Chamara Kapugedara, Malinda Warnapura, Ishara Amerasinghe, Ruchira Perera, Malinga Bandara, Kaushal Lokuarachchi were those players. They would have benefited from the experience but none excelled or overly impressed. Kapugedara got into double figures in all three games but failed to carry on, to post a big score. He had the opportunity and in future he must make the most of such chances.
Overall it was a tour best forgotten. Look forward to the Bangladesh tour to Sri Lanka – the next assignment.