Wednesday, May 29, 2024

ICC: Rajapaksa says bowlers have held the key to Sri Lanka success

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Photo Credit: Sri Lanka Cricket

Sri Lanka finished the First Round of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 with three victories from three thanks to a convincing win over the Netherlands and Bhanuka Rajapaksa praised the brilliance of their bowlers so far.

Sri Lanka took just 17.1 overs total match time to record an eight-wicket victory in Sharjah – skittling the Netherlands for 44, the second-lowest total in ICC Men’s T20 World Cup history, before comfortably knocking off the target.

Seamer Lahiru Kumara took a brilliant three for seven from his three overs and regularly clocked above 140kph on the speed gun, as did Dushmantha Chameera (1/13), while spinners Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana combined for five wickets.

Theekshana may miss the first Super 12s game against Bangladesh on Sunday due to a slight injury picked up during the win but batter Rajapaksa was full of praise for the bowling unit as a whole.

“It’s such a benefit having two bowlers who can bowl above 90mph,” he said. “Any batter will get shaken because bowling at 145kph+ and not having any room, just bowling in good areas, it’s always difficult to get it away.

“At the same time, the spinners have been extremely good for us and sticking to their basics and that’s one of the reasons why we’ve been winning throughout this tournament.

“I don’t know what the condition is [of Theekshana] exactly but the physios said we might leave him out for the next game.

“We don’t want to risk it by playing him and then not having him for the rest of the tournament. At the moment, he will be missing the next game as far as I know.

“It’s not 100 per cent but most probably he will miss the Bangladesh game and then play the rest of the games.”

While Sri Lanka’s bowling has been exceptional so far, their batting has been slightly hit and miss.

Although Rajapaksa said the Lions considered choosing to bat against the Netherlands after winning the toss to try and improve things, they ultimately opted to field in order to maximise their chances of victory.

“There was some consideration to batting first when we won the toss but with a mastermind in the dressing room, someone as special as Mahela Jayawardene – we always wanted to win, rather than just playing for ourselves,” he explained.

“We knew that Netherlands might not be the best side but we still wanted to keep them to a low score and win it as soon as possible.

“It worked and having a win behind us is much better than having individual performances.

“It’s always special to win games against good teams and this is some good confidence for the boys as well.”

Netherlands’ batting collapse, as they were all out for 44 in just ten overs, gave their bowlers nothing to defend and opener Max O’Dowd ­– who was run out in the first over ­– offered no excuses for the performance.

“It was pretty catastrophic, wasn’t it? There’s no other words to describe it ­– embarrassing I guess,” said O’Dowd.

“Mostly it’s disappointing – it’s not the Dutch team that I know to roll over like that. I’m just extremely disappointed because I know we’re so much better than that.

“To do that on a big stage is even more disappointing, so I’ve not really got any words.

“The Sri Lankan spinners were just too good for us today. You can’t go back and play across the line on a wicket like that.

“It’s not something we face very often, being from the Netherlands, and these boys are extremely skilled. Hasaranga put it on a spot and got it going both ways –­ it’s pretty tough to play when you don’t know what is coming.

“Fair play to those boys, they were outstanding and we just weren’t good enough today. That’s cricket but we’ll be back stronger, I know that.”

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