Sri Lanka s captain Mahela Jayawardene faced some criticism for playing only six batsmen after his team s three wicket loss to India in the second One-Day International at the Rangiri Dambulla International Cricket Stadium on Wednesday. After the first of the five match series, also in Dambulla, produced a low scoring game, it was felt that the Sri Lankans should strengthen the batting line up and the sentiments were echoed even more strongly when Chaminda Vaas, who had occupied the number seven position was ruled out from the game with a hamstring injury.
But the Sri Lankans persisted with just six batsmen and exposed the tail too early after losing the top six batsmen for just 44 runs.
`On a helping wicket you needed bowling options as well. That s what we tried to do. We got seven wickets at the end, that s because we had the attacking option. It s a tough one, but I think we played the right balance,` Jayawardene, who was one of the four victims of Man of the Match Zaheer Khan said.
`It s easier to say things after the game, but I thought losing four early wickets made the difference. We knew the batsmen had to take the responsibility to try and get through that initial 45 minutes that was crucial. Later on, when Kulasekara and Tushara batted, it was much easier. It wasn t doing that much. We had a plan but couldn t execute it properly,` Jayawardene said.
A face saving 74 run stand between Thilan Tushara Mirando (44) and Nuwan Kulasekara (25) enabled Sri Lanka to 142 and Jayawardene felt that a total of 175 would have made things really difficult for India.
`We thought 175 would have been a great score on this wicket. That was our target. We had to make sure we don t lose too many wickets upfront to keep wickets in hand and drag the game as much as possible.`
Despite two ODIs being played on weekdays, there were huge crowds in Dambulla on both days. The spectators, however, were in for disappointment as the games were low scoring affairs (no team managed to score 150 in two games). The Sri Lankan captain, however, felt that the conditions in Dambulla tested the batsmen s skills and wasn t complaining. He said that the batsmen needed to show application to succeed in Dambulla.
`It s a challenge for the batsmen. It s no point playing on really flat tracks and scoring 300 runs. From a players point of view, it s a great challenge. It s not really difficult to play, it is just that it is doing a little bit with the new ball and then it does settle in and once you get in, it s a very good wicket to bat on. The ball comes nicely to the bat and it has got a bit of bounce. It s a good challenge for the players,` he said.
Despite scoring only 142, the Sri Lankans kept fighting till the last run was scored, before eventually going down by three wickets. They had India in trouble at one stage having reduced them to 75 for five, but a 60 run stand for the sixth wicket between Subramaniam Badrinath (27) and captain M.S. Dhoni (39) took them through.
`When you are defending 140, you try to stop runs and pick up wickets. We tried different things and picked up wickets when we needed them and we were just one wicket away from opening up the tail-enders. We tried everything, but the partnership between Dhoni and Badrinath took the game away from us. The 60 runs they added as the difference when they batted. In a situation like that, you can t do too many things. You have to stop runs as well as attack, but it didn t work today.`