Sri Lanka to take it 'one game at a time' at WT20
'Bowling unit gives Sri Lanka the edge' — Jayawardene
By Rex Clementine | September 19, 2012
Sri Lanka's unorthodox bowlers have proven to be a handful in the T20 format. © AFP
HAMBANTOTA — Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene feels that the variety and the options he has in his bowling unit give Sri Lanka the edge over other teams in the World T20.
Sri Lanka’s campaign in the 12-nation competition got off to a resounding start, as the hosts thrashed Zimbabwe by 82 runs here at Suriyawewa on Tuesday, with spinner Ajantha Mendis making a memorable return to the side after an absence of nine months due to injury.
Mendis claimed a world record six for eight runs in his four overs, two of which were maidens, as the Zimbabweans failed to pick up his variations on a night where the host nation hardly put a foot wrong, except for perhaps running between the wickets.
"We have a very good bowling unit and we are trying to keep all the variations in our armoury," Jayawardene said.
"Ajantha was very keen to get back into the side and we saw that hunger in him. We wanted to make sure that he went through the processes and got his back sorted out, which is why we kept him away for this long.
"He has comeback strongly and hopefully he’ll continue to do the job. I’m sure he’ll have bad days, but the quality of the player is that he’ll have more good days than bad."
Mendis was a part of Sri Lanka’s squad for the tour of South Africa last year but didn’t play any of the three Tests. He returned to action during the ODI series, but was injured after the first game at Paarl and returned home early. He resumed his cricket during the SLPL tournament last month.
"I am happy with the way Ajantha bowled today. Even in the domestic tournament he came back and bowled really well. That was the indicator to see how match fit he was and how much control he had," Jayawardene added.
"This was his first game in eight months, and he was a bit nervous before the game, but he bowled really well. As a unit, we have come into this tournament to go all the way, but we have to focus on one game at a time."
'We're going to take it one game at a time'
The win means Sri Lanka qualify for the second round unless they lose badly to South Africa and Zimbabwe win handsomely against the Proteas, an equation that looks very unlikely given the way the two teams competed on Tuesday.
"This was a tough game for us. On paper, it seems like it was easy but a team like Zimbabwe can be the surprise element. We had spoken about the need to ensure that we were not complacent and make sure that we executed our game plan," Jayawardene said.
"Batting first on that wicket, we were also not sure how it was going to play and what kind of score we needed, so we were probably a bit conservative. But the guys batted well and 180 was always going to be a stiff target, and then the bowlers came through.
"This was something that we wanted to kick start the tournament. We’re going to take it one game at a time. We will enjoy the fans and their enthusiasm, but we have to concentrate on taking it one game at a time."
Sri Lanka’s opponents in the second round will be England, West Indies and New Zealand unless a surprise happens in the group stages. They will not meet India or Pakistan until the semi-finals of the tournament.
Both India and Pakistan handle Mendis well, and Jayawardene was asked whether that would be an issue during the crunch game of the tournament.
"I’ll let you know when we have to play India or Pakistan, but right now Mendis is doing the job for us," he replied.
Mendis went off the field after bowling his quota of four overs and there were concerns whether he was nursing an injury. But Jayawardene said that it was more a precautionary measure.
"He was a bit stiff on his side, so we wanted to make sure that he went and iced it. Fingers crossed, nothing is serious," he said.
On a night where the Sri Lankans performed exceptionally well, one concern was running between the wickets, as three batsmen fell in that fashion.
The Sri Lankan captain said that he hopes his side won't "make those silly mistakes going forward."
The captain also hoped for a better spectator attendance for the final group game against South Africa on Saturday. The grand stand here at Suriyawewa was empty, while a few stands too were not filled.
"It’s a week day. That’s all I can say. It’s tough for people to come for these matches while working. I’m hoping there’ll be a great crowd on Saturday," Jayawardene said, when asked about the poor attendance.
© Rex Clementine/The Island