Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 15 March 2015





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Sudden death games begin:

Lankans can crop the Proteas

Self belief is important:

As expected, the Sri Lankan cricketers led admirably by Captain Courageous Angelo Davis Mathews, obliged and entered the quarterfinals of the 2015 World Cup co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia.

Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews

They are now training hard and are being psyched to take on the mighty South Africans head on at the Sydney Cricket Ground under lights in a sudden death game on Wednesday, confident that they can crop the Proteas and keep moving on.

With Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara announcing their retirements after this World Cup, they will be keen to win against the South Africans, play the semifinals and the final and go out in a blaze of glory. That will be the wish of every Sri Lankan.

Hard and rocky road

On the hard and rocky road to the quarters, the gutty Lankan cricketers lost the opening game to New Zealand and then got on to the Winning Street pushing aside Afghanistan, Bangladesh and England and then having a little hiccup losing to Australia before stuffing Scotland.

Before the tournament was called ‘play’, the Lankans were faced with injury problems. They had to call for replacements as the tournament unspooled and generally the team was in a cricketing land of uncertainty.

Lankans enter last eight

But like the courageous cricketers that they are, they surmounted the injury problems and that they reached the quarterfinals is great credit.

In entering the last eight, the Sri Lankan cricketers played two games that they would like to remember and that was against England and Australia.

When a team batting first makes a score of over 300, it is not an easy ask to achieve. England and Australia made scores of well over 300. Against England when Sri Lanka began the chase there were many doubters.

Australia gallop to massive score

But after a solid star from openers Lahiru Thirimanne and Tillekeratne Dilshan who put on 100 and showed the way, Kumar Sangakkara and Thirimanne took it from there and took the team to a great victory with Thirimanne 143 and Sangakkara 117 remaining unbeaten to chalk up a 9-wicket victory in Wellington.

The big hiting South African captain Villiers

Then in a confrontation with Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Australia galloped to a massive score of 376 for 9. Victory for Australia was a foregone conclusion because getting anywhere near that score was impossible considering the strong Aussie pace attack.

But the never say die Lankans had the Australians in a spot of bother the admirable and determined manner in which they were boldly chasing that elusive victory target.

Dilshan 62, Sangakkara another well carved out 104, Mathews 35 and Dinesh Chandimal an explosive unbeaten 52 retired hurt shook the Aussie cricket foundation going well over the 300-run mark and falling short by just 64 runs and proving that the Aussie pace guns of Mitchell Starc and Mitch Johnson could be made to look ordinary.

Dilshan’s batting blitz

Dilshan in his batting blitz hit Johnson for 6 fours in six balls which was a stunning effort. The faster that Johnson bowled the harder Dilshan hit him with good cricket shots to send the white ball screeching to the four boundary. It was as good as hitting six sixes in six balls. He earned loud applause from the crowd for this heroic effort.

And now all these victories and individual brilliant efforts be history and forgotten as the Lankan cricketers face the mighty South Africans who are one of the favourites to win the World Cup 2015 at the SCG in the first quarterfinal.

The Lankans have played on the SCG and are aware that the wicket is favourable to batsmen.

Bowlers have had to work hard for wickets. So it will be seen that batting first and posting a score of well over 300 and putting the side chasing under pressure and winning is possible.

Toss in Mathews favour

Skipper Angelo Mathews has had luck with the coin turning more in his favour. He will be looking to win the all-important toss against South Africa and give his side first hit and that his batsmen will hoist a big score.

In this aspect batters of the class of Lahiru Thirimanne, Tillekeratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Angelo Mathews, Kusal Perera and Thisara Perera must contribute lavishly. While Thirimanne, Dilshan, Sangakkara and Mathews have been contributing, it is the form of Jayawardene that must be worrying. But Jayawardene is the man for the big occasion and he will come good.

Encouraging and inspiring

As for the bowlers, the encouraging and inspiring factor has been the return to form of Lasith Malinga at the right time. But he alone can’t perform. The other bowlers who play must get into the wicket taking act. With the SCG wicket likely to be spin friendly, the tour selectors will only after a look at the wicket and conditions decide to go pace for spin heavy. The spinners have no wickets to show.

As for the South Africans, they have a tendency to choke on the big occasion. They have batsmen in Hashim Amla, Faa du Plessis, skipper Abraham de Villiers, J.P. Duminy and Rilee Rossouw to pile on the runs. In bowling they will look to the fastest bowler in the tournament Dale Steyn to breach the defence of the frontline Sri Lankan batsmen. But in the two games that South Africa chased they capitulated to India and Pakistan.


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