The Sri Lankans are tipped to enter the semi-finals of the ICC Twenty20 World Cup, but to make doubly certain they must beat the New Zealanders in their final Super Eight match, here tomorrow.
Led by Kumar Sangakkara, the Lankans did well to beat the Pakistanis easily, but had to huff and puff to down Ireland in their second game.
The Lankans trouble against Ireland started when they lost their dashing opener Tillakaratne Dilshan in the second ball of the match without scoring.Then Sangakkara followed soon after at 14 making just five and then the batting slide started.
But thanks to Sanath Jayasuriya who made 27 and Mahela Jayawardena 81 the innings was salvaged and although the Lankans made 144, it was not going to be a challenging total.
And that s what it seemed when the Ireland openers began bashing the bowling and putting on 59 for the first wicket.But from that point onwards the bowling got on top to bring the Lankans a close victory,that at one stage looked unlikely.
Jayawardena struck at the right moment.His innings was sheer beauty and the strokes he displayed,especially the cover drives were from the book and an example to youngsters watching.He must continue from where he left.
Anyway the Lankans cleared that hurdle thanks to mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis and Lasith Malinga keeping their cool and riding the pressure to scalp wickets at vital moments.
Before the tour began the question asked here was? Would Mendis adjust to English wickets. He knocked that silly question into a cocked hat and has shown what ever the surface, he could be threatening.
Malinga s yorkers are simply unplayable. Batsmen are amazed at his speed and control of the dreaded delivery,that they fear to face him. Batsmen are like cats on a hot tin roof when Malinga runs up to bowl. Having got over the unpredictable Irish, it is paramount that we stuff the Kiwis and stuff them well so that our walk into the semis would be assured.
It is time that the selectors on tour did a little bit of tinkering with the squad. Chamara Silva has been given his chances, but does not seem to be coming good. Then it is unfair to deprive a batsman in the mould of Indika de Seram a go.
True the selectors pick the best men who they think will deliver. But this Twenty20 circus has no place for experimenting or a second chance. Seram deserves to play replacing either Silva or Jehan Mubarak.
The Sri Lankan openers Dilshan and Jayasuriya must see that they keep their wickets intact till the first six overs are bowled.True they must pile on the runs. But they must do so sensibly and not try to belt the covers off each delivery. Losing an early wicket could be tricky.
It is also time that the middle order contributed, instead of leaving it to the top to always come good.
Angelo Matthews has bowled a good opening spell.
The Kiwis were a no show against the Pakistanis. But that does not mean that they should be taken for granted. They have some very fine players who can turn things around.
The Kiwis are still missing their skipper Daniel Vettori punishing batsman Jesse Ryder is out of the tournament.
Ross Taylor another dashing batsman is still nursing an injury and it is not certain whether he will take the field or not.
But batsmen of the calibre of Brendon McCallum who is leading them in the absence of Vettori should not be taken lightly.He is big hitting and should be dismissed early.
Jacob Oram, Scott Styris and James Franklin could prove stumbling blocks. The Lankan bowlers should not let them get moving. The Kiwi bowling is not threatening but that does not mean that the Lankan batsmen must take it easy.
The Lankans would have done well to enter the semis. Who ever their opponents in the semis, they must continue to perform.
If they do just that they can fly back with the trophy and have their name engraved on it as being the second country to win it.