A hit and miss World Cup for Sri Lanka

First of all I must give some credits to our team and Dimuth. Everyone expected them to lose all their matches and finish last but they performed far better than expected and finished number 6. But as I felt we actually had a decent chance to qualify for the semi finals. But as the topic says there were some hits and unfortunately misses from the selections and players.The start for us was jusr bizarre, against New Zealand we saw a scorecard filled single digit scores and two ducks to Kusal Mendis and Angelo Mathews. Dimuth looked good but unfortunately he didn’t have anyone to bat alongside him. Then Guptill and Munro made short work of the score which was quite obvious since conditions really doesn’t matter when chasing a total under 150.Then came Afghanistan, one of the two newest test playing nations and the last time we met them it was a nightmare for us. The batting order changed for this as Kusal Janith our modern Sana came out to open the batting with the skipper. The start we got was really amazing but once again as soon the partnership ended the middle order collapsed and another duck for our main man Angelo Mathews. When the possible 300+ scorecard became just over 200 people started making Afghans the favourites. But our bowlers had other ideas, even after an early dash by Zazai and Shehzad Malinga made a strong comeback while Nuwan Pradeep who looked amazing that just went through their middle order like a bullet. Our bowlers played the patient game on this rain affected encounter and the Afghan batters succumbed to pressure. First win for Lions in the World Cup.After that we were supposed to play Pakistan and Bangladesh but raim had other ideas as both the matches were washed out. Well about this resulr certain people had different ideas, some believed we could’ve lost both some thought we could’ve won both, but thinking about that or complaining about that was a lost cause. You can’t argue or overpower nature when this happens so for better or worse we got 2 points from those two matches.Now after the long break, the big games started with the first being Australia, Dhananjaya de Silva had a good outing until a final over spoil the part effort by Aaron Finch. Finch as the skipper led from the front and scored a ton. But thanks to some superb death bowling by Malinga and Udana who also created two great run outs we restricted them to a gettable target. Our opening pair then walked out and bashed Starc and Cummins without any respect. They were going so well until Kusal Janith decided to play across the line to a straightish delivery by Starc. Thirimanne who walked in struggled and couldn’t keep up with the required rate. Soon he departed. But the real blow came when the Skipper Dimuth got out just 3 runs away from a well deserved century. Even after this we still had a chance but once again Angelo Mathews couldn’t score a two digit score as our later middle order just perished along with the tail. Kusal Mendis showed some form but the job was too big for him.After the mighty Aussies, it was the favourites England. No one gave us a chance in this match absolutely no one. Kusal and Dimuth who gave us good started got out early which left our so far disappointing middle order with a job to do. Well as they say cometh the hour cometh the man, the man Angelo Mathews turned up and scored a very strange but valuable unbeaten 85 to push the score over 230. And also can’t forget the quickfire knock young Avishka played to maintain our run rate in the first 15 overs. Against England in England defending this was impossible, that’s what Kevin Pietersen said during the mid match show. But our bowlers had other ideas. Mali led the bowling attack amazingly well to take 4 wickets as all the others Udana, Dhana and Pradeep chipped in with wickets. The impossible became the possible as we defeated England for the 4th time in a row in world cups.Now with the semi finals in clear sights we faced proteas. A team we never did well against in ICC tournaments. And once again we struggled against them. Avishka and Kusal Janith got starts once again but they couldn’t continue. And then Angelo Mathews and Kusal Mendis couldn’t find gaps, couldn’t find timing and got out. Jeewan Mendis who walked in as #6 pushed Sri Lanka into further depths with a very disappointing knock which had a strike rate of less than 35. We scored just over 200 and this was no way enough for them. As the great Mayya said after this match bowlers can’t win you matches always.After the loss against South Africa and England’s win against India our chances of qualifying to the semi finals vanished and the encounter against West Indies was a dead rubber. Windies bowlers lacked colour and the will big time as Sri Lankans made full use of it as young Avishka who impressed everyone with his cameos finally made it big. A maiden ODI hundred just in his 8th game. This was also the first century for Sri Lanka in this world cup. Kusal Janith was good once again but couldn’t convert it to a century, Anji and Thiri made cameos to finally push Sri Lanka to a score which exceeded 300. Then our bowlers started well but the dismal performance by Jeffrey Vandersay opened the doors once again for Windies as Pooran and Allen thrashed our bowlers to all parts of the ground. Sri Lankan also had two overs of the unfinished quota by Vandersay and looked in deep trouble to lose the match. But the unlikely hero with the ball in hand was Angelo Davis Mathews. After 9 months he took the ball and delivered when we needed a wicket the most. It was close but we defeated West Indies in a high scoring match. Avishka Fernando deservingly won the MOTM award.Then last but certainly absolutely not the least, we had to face our neighbours, the high riding Indians. Avishka once again scored a 20 but got out and it was upto the experienced duo of Anjelo Mathews and Lahiru Thirimanne to rebuild the innings which they did. Thirimanne scored a half century while Angeli Mathews went onto score his 3rd ODI century. His love story as a batsman with headingley continued. But this total of 260+ was never enough for India. They scored the number of hundreds Sri Lankans scored in this world cup in a single match to beat us by 7 wickets.3 wins 4 losses 2 wash outs 8 points and 6th place. That’s what our points table position showed in the end. So it was certainly a far better performance than we expected but where did it go wrong for us? Some points which I personally believe costed us are below.

1. Not using Avishka Fernando from the beginning (He should’ve played in the #3 slot from with Thirimanne batting down the order)2. Angelo Mathews having an ordinary first half.3. Kusal Mendis’ failures throughout the tournament as #44. Not having a proper spin bowler (Dhana did a great job but asking him to be the main spinner and win matches was just too much)5. Too many allrounders (Milinda Siriwardena was almost useless, he was given just one chance, Oshadha Fernando would’ve been the better option)6. Weak bench strength (Not having someone to bat in the middle order if someone failed was a huge problem. We had to push Thiri back into the #6 spot because of that. He did a good job there though)7. Middle order giving away the great starts by the openers (As I sais before Kusal Mendis failing again and again along with Angelo Mathews’ weak first half our middle order just collapsed)8. Rotation of Strike (I’m quite sure we have a very large percentage of dot balls compared to other teams except Afghanistan) 

Kusal Janith Perera was our highest run getter with 273 runs followed up by Angelo Mathews 244, Dimuth Karunarathne 222 and Avishka Fernando 203. When we take the bowlers Lasith Malinga was our highest wicket taker with 13 wickets followed up by Isuru Udana 6, Dhananjaya de Silva 5 and Nuwan Pradeep 5.

So now the world cup is over and we will move on to a series with Bangladesh followed up by the  beginning of our World Test Championship. For the Bangladesh series I think we will see atleast 4 or 5 changes from the world cup squad. The plan for the next 4 years should be having a settled core and rotating a limited number of players. And also a little sentence to pay respect and thank our legendary slinga Malinga for an amazing world cup career with 56 wickets. He won us so many matches in world cup and we will dearly miss him come the 2023 world cup 

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  1. Safe to say we certainly did better than expected. I honestly thought we would struggle to beat the Afgans lets alone Eng. Windies was a nice win and the two rained out games accounted for another win. Major disappointments were Kusal Mendis (lets not just drop him as a result) and Thisera Perera – both had vital roles and neither did anything note worthy. The bits and pieces players can only ever be that but in the end neither of these actually did anything noteworthy.

    The big plus was Avishak followed by Kusal Janith who was great at the top (lets not drop him for no apparent reason as well please). Anjelo finally came to the party after the campaign was over and his knock against India was more like the Anji we know but again, no impact on the game.

    Dimuth did a great job given the very difficult role we gave him at the last minute but the question has to be asked what is his future. If we are happy with him as the limited over opener in the modern era? I am not sure but not sure we have a lot of options.

    The long and short of it is we cannot do the same dance from the last WC to the next WC. Firstly, it is most likely we would have to qualify for the next WC so it we are not switched on from now, we may not actually make the next WC in India. The plan for India is reasonably straight forward, flat tracks with spinners and if we can’t work this out then we can’t workout anything else.