Strong showing against Zimbabwe reaffirms Sri Lanka’s ability to go all the way
By Goutham Chakravarthi | September 19, 2012
Ajantha Mendis proved too hot to handle for the Zimbabweans. © AFP
COLOMBO – Mahela Jayawardene was right to brush aside talk of his side choking in the final stages of big tournaments. After all, as one of the strongest contenders of the WT20, looking too far ahead is the last distraction his team needs at the moment.
After instrumenting a few scares against Bangladesh and South Africa in a T20 tri-series recently, Zimbabwe were expected to provide stiff opposition to the home team. But for their spinners, their performance was abysmal.
Watching the game at The Cricket Club Cafe in Colombo was special, as it made picking the brains of cricket fans from all across the globe possible.
The wickets in Sri Lanka might not be the same as they were years ago, and the composition of Sri Lanka’s playing XI is a stark reminder of that. Gone are the days when their spinners squeezed the life out of opponents with their nagging accuracy. Instead, nippy medium-pacers in Nuwan Kulasekara, Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera are now their prime middle-over bowlers, with Ajantha Mendis and Lasith Malinga providing the attacking options.
It was always going to be an uphill task for Zimbabwe against such an attack if they didn’t restrict Sri Lanka to fewer than 150. Poor fielding and insipid bowling put paid to that, as Kumar Sangakkara and Jeevan Mendis put on a crucial 94-run partnership, studded with some very imaginative and powerful stroke-play. By the end, the Zimbabweans had run out of breath and were batted out of the game.
Ajantha Mendis seems to have found his mojo again after a long injury lay off. Zimbabwe seemed clueless against him. He finished with figures of 6 for 8; figures that are hard to digest even in a high-school game.
ESPNCricinfo’s The Two Chucks, Jarrod Kimber and Sam Collins, who were at The Cricket Club Cafe had different views on Ajantha Mendis.
Kimber said that he doubts Sri Lanka would "even play Ajantha Mendis in the latter stages of the tournament."
"Most top teams have worked him out,” he says.
On the other hand, Collins picked Sri Lanka as his favourite to win the World Cup.
Even as Zimbabwe seemed clueless against Jeevan Mendis and Ajantha Mendis, newly-wed couple Kit Stephenson and his lovely wife Kate from the UK were unequivocal of their favourites – Sri Lanka.
Indeed, Sri Lanka appear to have all the bases covered, and appear to be one of the favourites for the tile. While no team coming into the tournament was a runaway favourite, Sri Lanka might have their noses ahead of others at the moment.
It would be interesting to see if Akila Danajaya will force his way into the playing XI in the later stages of the tournament at the expense of Ajantha Mendis; holding back on their trump cards for later has been Sri Lanka’s strategy in the past.
It’s still a long way to go yet, but Sri Lanka would be glad to have avoided an early slip-up.
Goutham Chakravarthi is an Indian freelance journalist, podcaster and founder of The CouchExpert.
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