Thursday, 20 June 2019 05:41

Crunch time for Sri Lanka – up against imperious England

LEEDS, Wednesday: It’s crunch time for Sri Lanka as they take on a domineering England side at Headingley here on Friday in a World Cup match which will decide their fate of qualifying for a place in the semi-finals.

Sri Lanka know that they have to win at least three of their remaining four matches to get into the last four and it is not an easy task as they are up against some of the best teams in the tournament – England, India, West Indies and South Africa.

“We are aware as to how many games we need to win to qualify for the semis. We want to win every match. We play to win every game,” said fast bowling coach Rumesh Ratnayake after Sri Lanka found to their disappointment that they could not get any practice today as the outfield was wet and the practice pitches covered due to morning rain.

“We discussed the importance of doing our best. We have only seen glimpses of our potential and on the day that we fully materialize our potential is the day we will sort of come through. We hope in every game it will come through,” he said.

“We know that England have a strong batting line up and they keep attacking. Their game plan is like that of West Indies of the past. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have flaws. We have watched them and we know what their weak areas are and it is a matter of exploiting those areas of vulnerabilities. There aren’t much of that but whatever they have, we have to exploit that,” Ratnayake said.

It was only two days ago that England shattered several batting records on their way to beating Afghanistan with their captain Eoin Morgan leading the way with a blazing century that comprised a world record 17 sixes.

Sri Lanka are also wary of England’s variety in their bowling attack which their malfunctioning middle order batsmen must counter if they are to put up a decent total on the board.

“England are good. They have variety on all aspects. They have got pace and they have got guys who can move the ball. Those are the challenges our batsmen face. We are prepared for that,” said Ratnayake.

“We will try to stimulate as much as possible like bowling machine and granite. But it is not like the real game. The actual thing is the real game. The boys are ready and we did well against them in one game in Colombo,” he said.

On England’s new ‘find’ Jofra Archer, Ratnayake said, “We have seen him and that’s a lot of input isn’t it. He attacks the stumps and he is sensational.”

Not only the pace of Archer that the Sri Lankan batsmen will be up against but also that of Mark Wood. Both bowlers are up in the 145-150kph mark and to add to that are the pace and swing of Chris Woakes, Ben Stokes, Liam Plunkett, Tom Curran and the spin of Adil Rashid, Moeen Ali and Liam Dawson. That’s quite a handful for any team to handle let alone Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka lost a golden opportunity of upsetting defending champions Australia in their last game played on Saturday at the Oval when after a century opening stand their middle order collapsed like a pack of cards to lose the match quite tamely.

“I don’t think we can give any excuses. It was certainly a miss. The conditions were good. We saw from the start that we had in the batting, it was a fantastic start. We couldn’t have asked for a better start at the Oval. It was a matter of finishing it well,” lamented Ratnayake.

“The bowlers have done well, yes. My expectations are much more from them. The batsmen we have discussed a lot. We are aware that we need to be more consistent and believe in ourselves. We have the potential and batsmen are aware of that. Nobody wants to get out cheaply. That’s in our mind. Every match we go in we hope it will work well,” he said.

Ratnayake’s memories of Leeds is the World Cup match between Sri Lanka and Pakistan played here in 1983.

“My memories of the World Cup of 1983 are still fresh although that was a long time ago. I played against Pakistan and we had them struggling. They were 43 for five. We missed a few catches and Imran (Khan) went onto score a hundred. I got two wickets in successive balls and next ball the catch was dropped in the slips,” recalled Ratnayake.

In that match Ashantha de Mel, the present chairman of selectors and manager of the World Cup side (5/39) and Ratnayake (2/42) ran riot in the opening overs capturing the top five Pakistani wickets to have them reeling at 43-5 before Imran (102 n.o.) in partnership with Shahid Mahboob (77) lifted them to a decent total of 235-7 off 60 overs. Sri Lanka lost the contest by 11 runs after being comfortably placed at 162-2 falling to the leg-spin of Abdul Qadir (5/44).

(Daily News)

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