Sri Lanka, who have not yet posted a score of 300+ in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, will be hoping to break that barrier against South Africa at the Riverside Grounds in Durham on Friday.
South Africa have no chance of making the semis, having lost five of their seven matches in the group stage, and are currently ninth on the table, while Sri Lanka lie in seventh place with six points in as many games.
To beat South Africa on a flat surface, the onus will be on the batsmen in the Lankan camp to post a reasonable score on the board. The bowlers, led by Lasith Malinga, have bailed them out twice so far in the competition.
In the first three games against New Zealand, Afghanistan and Australia, it was the top-order pair of Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Perera, who held the fort for Sri Lanka with the bat, while in the last game, it was the under-firing middle-order, led by ex-captain Angelo Mathews and youngsters Kusal Mendis and Avishka Fernando. But, what has still not happened is the whole batting group clicking together.
However, Sri Lanka head coach Chandika Hathurusingha and batting coach Jon Lewis, have openly stressed the fact that they need to emulate New Zealand captain Kane Williamson and England Test skipper Joe Root, who are known to be slow-starters but have been steady performers so far in the World Cup. Both Root and Williamson are in the top five run-scorers list, accumulating 432 and 414 respectively.
Hathurusingha also touched upon the fact that the experienced campaigners in the squad must put their hands up and perform. He also said that most of their batting game plans revolve around Mathews.
“The senior players or the big players turn up for the occasion. That has boosted our confidence. Their efforts are crucial for us winning. If you take Kane Williamson and Joe Root, they rise to the occasion when they are needed. Oppositions want them dismissed early,” Hathurusingha said on the eve of the game against the Proteas.
“Someone like [Angelo] Mathews, is a world-class player, and he showed a lot of mental resilience in that innings (against England) because he was under pressure for not scoring runs early on in the tournament. He was involved in one or two partnerships, even not batting well as he could because we know how well he can bat. So those are the things that we normally talk about, it’s very key for us to put partnerships together and click as a batting group. “
Sri Lanka, out of their four matches, have so far not been able to score a century in the tournament. Skipper Dimuth Karunaratne has the highest individual score – 97 against Australia. According to the Team Manager, Asantha De Mel, the Lankan batsmen are eager to express themselves and score big hundreds.
Victory for Sri Lanka in all three of their remaining matches will see them in with a strong chance of making the final four but they first need to overcome the Protea challenge.
“We have had two guys who have battled over 100 balls in the last two games and that’s a good indication as that’s something we have not been doing over the last year – to play 100 balls,” Lewis told the press.
“That’s what we need. Contributions like not just 40 or 50 balls. World Cup has shown that. Kane Williamson and Joe Root. They aren’t the guys who are quick out of the blocks but they catch up and that’s possibly the way to do it.”