2015 World Cup update #12: Sri Lankan batsmen dominate England, Pakistan eke win over Zimbabwe


After the previous day’s heart-stopping, low-scoring, bowler-dominated thriller between Australia and New Zealand, when fortunes were reversed time and again, the game between England and Sri Lanka was a stark contrast, a sedate batsman-dominated game that produced a different kind of engrossing game in which Sri Lanka eventually cruised to an easy victory after being set a formidable challenge by England.

I thought that England paced their first innings well, getting off to a fast start of 42 runs in the first five overs, slowing down but consolidating their innings in the next 30 overs thanks to a fine partnership of 98 by two of the youngest players in their generally young team (Joe Root and James Taylor are just 24 and 25 years old respectively) that gives hope for the team’s future, and then blasting away at the Sri Lankan bowlers at the end to get 106 runs in the last ten overs to end up at 309/6. Since scores of 300 or more have been sufficient to win in all but one match in this tournament, they had good reason to be satisfied at the break.

Facing a tough target of 310 to win, Sri Lanka set about it as methodically as I have ever seen them, putting on 100 for the first wicket before Tillakaratne Dilshan was out for 44. This brought Kumar Sangakkara to the crease and he put on a display of top class batting as he and Lahiru Thirimanne methodically made the England bowling look ineffective and they reached their target with 16 balls to spare.

Sangakkara reached 100 in just 70 balls, his fastest ever and the fifth fastest in World Cup history, but he was not simply hitting everything in sight, He scored his runs the old-fashioned, classical way, targeting bad balls and finding the gaps, and this is what made his performance one of the best in a great career.

The Sri Lankan opener Lahiru Thirimanne, while he can play some lovely strokes, always keeps you on the edge. Some batsmen like Sangakkara, when they are in the groove, seem to see the ball almost in slow motion and be able to pick exactly what they want to do with it and where to place it. With Thirimanne you always have the feeling that he could get out at any moment. He was dropped very early when he had scored just 3 and again at 98 but in-between he batted beautifully. This century in his first World Cup tournament might be just what this young player needs to give him the confidence to be the permanent top-order batsman Sri Lanka are looking for when their three aging veterans retire.

While their batting seems to be peaking at the right time, Sri Lanka should be concerned that they not only could not get more English wickets, they could not curb the scoring rate at the end against an England team that is not noted for big hitting power. There were too many loose deliveries and their bowling could not force the batsmen to give them chances. On the plus side, their fielders did not drop too many reasonable catches, though they do need to raise it up a notch if they are going to beat the tougher opponents.

Sri Lanka are now in good shape to qualify for the next round. Thanks to the fact that the standard for qualifying for the quarterfinals is so low (the top four teams in each group of seven advance) England can also still make it even though they have lost to Australia, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka, as long as they win their remaining games against Bangladesh (whom they lost to in the last world Cup) and Afghanistan.

The other game between Pakistan and Zimbabwe was a low-scoring affair that Pakistan managed to win after being given a serious scare. Batting first, Pakistan managed to score only 235/7, after an excruciatingly slow start in which they scored just 14 runs off the first ten overs, thanks to a great effort by their fast bowler Wahab Riaz, who later took four wickets and was deservedly awarded the Player of the Match title. Their fast bowlers managed to bring the game home, dismissing Zimbabwe for 215.

If Pakistan had lost, they had practically no chance of qualifying for the next round. Now they can still do it while Zimbabwe is pretty much certain of elimination.

Today sees South Africa play Ireland. Although Ireland pulled off an upset win over West Indies, South Africa is another thing entirely and for them to win would undoubtedly be the biggest upset in World Cup history.

Comments

  1. jockmcdock says

    Well done, Sri Lanka. What seemed like a pretty useful total by England was achieved by the Sri Lankans with a couple of overs to spare (and, of course, with lots of wickets in hand).

    Much of modern ODI batting is due to Sri Lanka. When the 50 over game first started, most (if not all teams) treated it as a mini-test. Opening batsmen elected to keep their wicket rather than go for quick runs. In those days, if memory serves me correctly, there was a restriction on the number of fielders outside the circle for the first 15 overs (now reduced to 10). The Sri Lankans worked out that that period was a good time to have a bit of a go at the bowling. So, instead of adopting the softly, softly approach then in vogue, they looked for the boundaries. A new era was heralded in and we should all be grateful.

  2. electrojosh says

    Two great games and both results I, as a Kiwi, was happy with (New Zealand and Sri Lanka winning).

    One question I have: do other nations tend to cheer on whoever is playing England? In New Zealand it is very common and probably something to do with our colonial heritage that we like seeing them get beaten – I am pretty sure this extends to Australia as well but do others feel the same way?

    Also; did Sangakarra uncover some sort of fountain of youth? It isn’t just how well he is playing at 37 – he looks like he could be in his mid-20s. Considering he plays a sport where he’s outside in the sun for most of the day makes me suspicious… Anyway what a great innings.

  3. Mano Singham says

    electrojosh,

    I think that anti-colonial sentiment is a factor for most members of the former colonies but not all. There are still a few Anglophiles who think that the period when the British ruled was the best. I know because I have had fierce arguments with them!

    As I said in an earlier post, in general I cheer for the underdog for any given match and those that have not won the trophy in previous tournaments, with the sole exception of still cheering for Sri Lanka out of pure tribal allegiance! Next to them (and limiting myself to only those teams that I think have a realistic chance of winning) I would like to see NZ win because they play the game well in all areas and are good sports and haven’t won before. Next to NZ, I cheer for South Africa for pretty much the same reasons. I cheer against Australia, India, and West Indies because they each have won multiple times.

    I get the sense that in this tournament, NZ are the general crowd favorites, in the sense that they are every person’s second choice after the tribal allegiances.

    I agree that Sangakkara both looks and plays well. But I think he will quit the game soon, especially if SL pull off an unexpected win in this tournament because then he will have achieved his main goal. He is an outspoken advocate for many good things in SL both in sports and other issues and I think he may have political ambitions. From what I have heard, he would be a good person to hold high office in that troubled country.

  4. Mano Singham says

    jockmcdock,

    I agree that SL changed the face of the one-day game. They were fortunate that they had as openers at that time Sanath Jayasuriya and Rohan Kaluwitharana whose natural style was to attack and their assaults in the early stages of the game has created the template that McCullum now follows so well.

  5. jockmcdock says

    electrojosh

    when I was in my mid 30’s I looked like I was in my mid 20’s. Thirty years later, I look my age.

    Ouch. But I guess I should be grateful.

  6. sundoga says

    One of the Bangladeshi commentators came into my store today (at Perth airport); he was of the opinion that Ireland has an outside chance provided they can get their bowling game into play fast and cut into the SA batting depth. Not sure if I agree, but it looks to be a good game.

  7. fentex says

    England’s ex-captain Atherton has been quoted saying the loss to Sri-Lanka was worse than that to NZ because NZ is energetic and fancied and Sri-Lanka is old and tired and the duration of the game just gave longer to watch England’s flaws.

    Which just seems like piling on for the fun of it to me – Sri-Lanka has won the World Cup in the past, New Zealand never has, and judging a game by peoples opinions of who’s fancied or not off the field is pretty shallow cover for voicing a prejudice.

    Who’d want to play for England if this is how you’re treated when you’r down?

  8. Mano Singham says

    I totally agree. Another way of saying ‘old and tired’ is ‘experienced’! As I said before, England’s fans and press seem to me to be unduly harsh on their players, relentlessly second-guessing them which results in them making drastic changes too early and too often. It must be demoralizing for them.

    I did not think they played all that badly actually. They batted very well. Their problems were fairly specific. The dropped early catch on Thirimanne cost them and they seem to lack a good spinner who can provide some variety to their attack. But the main reason for their loss was that they encountered Sangakkara on a very good day for him.

  9. says

    Congratulations to Sri lanka! (ok it was a few days ago but I haven’t been around) their openers made the England attack look erm “experienced”.

    As to Atherton, its not like he was a dazzling success as captain !

    electrojosh @2
    “One question I have: do other nations tend to cheer on whoever is playing England?”

    um, yeah

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