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Sri Lankan middle order needs to grind it out against England says Mahela Jayawardene

by Sahir Usman Jun 16, 2019 • 08:35 AM

Special Article on ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 by Mahela Jayawardene

June 16 - It’s going to be an uphill struggle for Sri Lanka to reach the semi-finals following the 87-run defeat to Australia but it is still possible. It was a disappointing defeat because they had a great opportunity to get two points but let it slip away.

Also Read: Australia victories are more important than personal milestones for captain Finch

The opening batsmen, Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Perera, set up the chase of 335 really well with a brilliant century partnership at 6.5 runs per over.

We just needed two good partnerships to get through the two later spells from Mitchell Starc because there wasn’t much momentum for the other Australian bowlers.

But then there was a complete collapse in the middle order, which is exactly what happened in the warm-up game against South Africa, then the New Zealand loss and even the win against Afghanistan.

It’s a bit of a concern and when Glenn Maxwell bowled, our left-handers got stuck in the situation where he’s their fifth bowler but they were unable to put him under pressure.

If they could have got after Maxwell, then Australia didn’t really have many other options to turn to but it’s a worrying pattern where the middle order are consistently unable to control the tough situations.

They’re experienced players as well, so it’s disappointing. They’re trying different ways to get out of it but for me, the only way is the old-fashioned way – grind it out.

Sri Lanka had opportunity to do that because of the brilliant start by the openers – two good 50-run partnerships would’ve put Australia under tremendous pressure and enabled us to control the chase quite easily.

The fast bowlers bowled really well but both teams tactically probably didn’t get right by not playing a main spinner – which you need to control the middle overs.

Our quicks bowled really well with control but couldn’t pick up wickets. The only way to limit good batting teams is by picking up wickets in middle overs, so you can keep them to 270 or 280.

If Sri Lanka had a genuine spinner in the side it could’ve made a difference and I thought they should’ve gone with Jeevan Mendis because he can bat as well.

Now they need at least two more wins to be in consideration for the top four and it’s four tough teams left – England, South Africa, West Indies and India.

It’s England next and for that match, you have to take a leaf out of Pakistan’s book – they played their natural game against England and deservedly won.

They attacked the England spinners, especially in the middle overs, and I thought Mohammad Hafeez batted brilliantly in that period.

Sri Lanka have to take those chances, put those England bowlers under pressure and kick on when they can.

What you’ve seen to win games at this ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup is that either posting a score above 300 or restricting the opposition to less than 270.

It’s all about how Sri Lanka can achieve that. Pakistan had the bowling attack, had the variation and pace to challenge the England batting line-up.

I don’t think Sri Lanka have the pace but the variety is there and I think they have to use a spinner in their line-up to create those opportunities in the middle overs.

Without the middle order firing, it will be tough to post that total above the 300-mark but they are definitely capable of beating England, although it won’t be easy.