Zims were never a big threat to confident Lanka

Can the game between Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe be called the massacre of the innocents? I actually wonder whether Zimbabwe could be termed innocent in cricket! True the disparity between the two sides has been huge but the manner the Lankans dominated the gme was outstanding.

The Zimbabweans are bound to kick themselves for the decision to field first after winning the toss. True the dew factor was a concern but in the end it was a no show and a terrific opportunity to have a score on the board being lost.Looking at the Zimbabwe line up their biggest draw back is the need of a genuine match winning bowler.

The pace and spin options available to Zimbabwe are at best adequate with Ray Price the experienced left arm spinner being the only performer worthy of mention. Even in the case of Price he is more a containing bowler than really being able to get wickets and with the rest of the bowlers leaking runs, Zimbabwe is bound to struggle when up against quality teams.

The other factor concerning the Zimbabweans is the inconsistency in their batting too. So in short the team has issues surrounding the two major areas of their game namely batting and bowling. Having said that Brendon Taylor looks an exception with the bat in hand though none of the others could come anywhere close to the Flower brothers, the Pycrofts, The Campbells and the Heath Streaks who once donned the Zimbabwe colours. The folly of mixing politics and cricket unfortunately has taken a heavy toll on Zimbabwe Cricket which has struggled ever since to measure up to the expected levels of International Cricket.!

Sri Lanka appears to be on top of their game at this important stage of the world cup. After a superb performance against Australia which was unfortunately interrupted by rain, the Lankans have continued with their professional approach and has now overcome the Zimbabweans with New Zealand the only real challenge in the first round remaining. The form the Lankan out fit is in; one wonders whether the Kiwis will be too much of a threat after their win against Pakistan and despite playing away from home.

Back to the Zimbabwe game in Pallekelle, the batting of Dilshan first and then Tharanga was absolutely fantastic. Whilst Dilshan was the more aggressive and the dominant batsman, Upul Tharanga wasn’t far behind either. The shot making of both players were exceptional and the Zimbabwe bowlers were made to look pedestrian and having no clue as to how to contain them. It was a pity that in spite of establishing the best opening stand in world cup cricket, Dilshan missed out on making the highest individual score for Sri Lanka by just two runs as well as achieving the unique double of a hat-trick and a century in the same match not forgetting the opportunity of scoring a century and claiming a five wicket haul in the same game too!

This is a clear indication of the value Dilshan brings to the team and what a difference he could make with either the bat or ball! His century which was his first in world cup cricket definitely had a positive rub off on his bowling and fielding too.As for the rest of the performance of the Lankans the biggest worry will be the middle order. One wonders how prudent it was to promote a pinch hitter ahead of an inform established batsman! I am not taking anything away from Thisara Perera’s ability as a hitter of the ball as he has demonstrated his powers in that area during his short stay in the International scene. However my honest feeling is an inform batsman could score runs as quickly and as effectively as a pinch hitter, with the efficiency level of making it not being lost either. Hence the ideal one drop batsman in the scenario Sri Lanka was in, should have been skipper Sangakkara who has a hit a purple patch with the bat and could be counted to score runs as quickly as it is required.

Though Sangakkara may not take to his lofted shots at the beginning of his innings he can be as effective when playing proper cricket shots at a late stage of an innings. With him at no three and with his ability to score runs quickly and run quickly between wickets and with the likes of Jayawardane, Chamara Silva and Mathews to follow in that order Sri Lanka was bound to get close to the three fifty mark.

I don’t mean that the final score Sri Lanka achieved wasn’t adequate but in the long run and final analysis the net run rates can be extremely vital and hence big scores and large victory margins are really the order of the day. As such the more you score the better it is for you as the world cup has reached unpredictable proportions. Otherwise who would have expected New Zealand to beat Pakistan with so much of ease which has made some of the Pakistani players the laughing stock amongst their fans! It was humorous to hear some of the Pakistani supporters referring to Kamran Akmal who had a bad game behind the stumps as “ Every successful batsman has Kamran Akmal behind them” and even attaching the slogan “ Where can I drop you” to the unfortunate keeper. Then what about the following? “Kamran Akmal and Michael Jackson having one thing in common and that is to wear gloves for no reason”!

The poor performance of Pakistan has opened the table wide open and teams such as New Zealand who were never serious contenders to win the world cup, has now being made to look favourites. The defeat of Pakistan confirms that no team can ever be taken lightly and no game is won or lost until the last ball is bowled! Sri Lanka one of the teams who should reach the semi-final is bound to be mindful of this and ought to ensure that they are at the top of their game as the world cup progresses.

The middle order which is the worrying point needs to get their act together as it is imperative that the Lankans don’t go in to every game depending on the Sangakkaras, Jayawardenas, Dilshans and Tharangas to perform always. Cricket after all is team game and a team has eleven players in it!

Roshan Abeysinghe is a leading cricket promoter and an international cricket commentator

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