Fielding woes continue Sri Lankan distress

Monday, 16 February 2015 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • The downed catches are the cause of so much of their woe, but also, are a reflection of the confidence of a side, that has lost 12 out of 19 completed ODIs, plus two Tests, since mid-October

Sri Lanka’s Jeewan Mendis misses a catch off New Zealand batsman Corey Anderson during their Cricket World Cup match in Christchurch 14 February – Reuters

Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews reacts alongside the ball and fallen bails after a failed attempt to run out New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum (not pictured) during their Cricket World Cup match in Christchurch, 14 February – Reuters

ESPNcricinfo: No loss inspires as much regret as one conceived by spilled catches. No day feels so wasted as the one defined by a few sorry moments. For Sri Lanka, their time in New Zealand has been continually marred this heartbreak; a grim, empty eddy of “what ifs”. That a Brendon McCullum salvo might come off and that an off-colour new-ball pair would be crashed around is not so surprising, but couldn’t it have been so much better if Kane Williamson was snapped up for none? It was 57 runs that he scored today, after Kumar Sangakkara failed to cling to a sharp one, low to his right. It was 213 runs and a Test series, when Sri Lanka spurned the first of the four chances he gave them in Wellington, six weeks ago. Sri Lanka had a second shot at Williamson, on 27, but Angelo Mathews parried that one overhead. In the 37th over, Corey Anderson could probably have been held by substitute Dinesh Chandimal for 2. Instead, he made the chance seem tougher than it was and it flew over the rope. Those three at least were somewhat difficult opportunities. Jeevan Mendis circled under one, with Anderson on 43, and collected only fresh air as the ball descended, leather striking him somewhere near the groin on the way down, to add comical injury to insult. The downed catches are the cause of so much of their woe, but also, are a reflection of the confidence of a side, that has lost 12 out of 19 completed ODIs, plus two Tests, since mid-October. That there is quality in this squad is hard to deny. Eight of the 11 men who triumphed in last year’s World T20 final, were on the field on Saturday. How much worse do they seem now, than they did a mere eight months ago? When Sri Lanka are surging, their modest shards of talent are fused together into a menacing point. Not only are the catches held, but even their rarer celestial events begin to run together. Fours begin pouring off Nuwan Kulasekara’s blade. Tillakaratne Dilshan makes big breakthroughs. Boundary riders execute manoeuvres no coach has ever taught them. When Sri Lanka are flagging, all their foibles come into sharp focus. In pursuit of a ball, Lasith Malinga’s belly wobbles more than his deliveries do off the seam. Rangana Herath lumbers like he is dragging the remains of his own broken body around. Mahela Jayawardene is in a perpetual frump because even the young men who can move quickly, only flail at the ball as it whooshes past them. The fielding has been poor for so long that it has now become self-parody. “Their guys get to the ball much faster than ours”, was a warning Dilshan audibly issued to his opening partner early in Sri Lanka’s innings. All through the first roaring eight months of 2014, Mathews had spoken of Sri Lanka playing for each other, “like a family”. Now, when losses have stacked up, the frayed edges that are a perpetual presence in any Sri Lanka outfit, begin to unspool. The innings’ top-scorer, Lahiru Thirimanne, approximated the cost of those spills. “It was a good wicket, but 280-290 would have been really chaseable in this ground,” he said. “But I thought we didn’t field well, so that cost us. As a team we have to put that extra effort because sometimes crucial catches might cost end of the game. As a team we have to put our heads down and do the extra work.” The fielding lapses compounded, and the street-smarts that get Sri Lanka deep into big tournaments, deserted them. Mathews saved one Rangana Herath over, as if for a rainy day, only for Anderson to hit them like a flash flood. In contrast, Daniel Vettori was through his full quota in the 35th over. McCullum had a chasing team on the run, of course, so he was under no great stress. But Sri Lanka and Mathews - a team and captain that pride themselves on their cool heads under duress - allowed their best bowler to have one over unforgivably unused. Mendis’ two wickets for five runs from two overs also jars in comparison with Malinga and Kulasekara’s combined 1 for 162, from 18 overs. Mendis’ bowling form over the past month has not suggested he should be entrusted a long spell, but when frontliners are going for plenty, the bowling plan could do with a little massaging. Isn’t that the nimbleness that has defined them in past campaigns, when they have ridden on the coattails of unlikely performers? Even leaving that aside, isn’t that the flexibility they build into their attack when they stack the team with allrounders? In the past, Sri Lanka have arrived at world tournaments unfancied, then taken the events by the collar. This time, when they have the most experienced top order in the world, the finest contemporary death bowler, and arguably the best spinner in the tournament, they are waiting for the World Cup to come to them, and shake them to life.

 ‘Happy opening the innings’: Thirimanne

Lahiru Thirimanne, who top-scored for Sri Lanka with 65 off 60, said he was comfortable with being moved around the batting order. Sri Lanka have been unsure with how to use him in the past 18 months, often asking him to plug holes in the batting order, when other batsmen begin underperforming. The selectors had hoped to bat him at No. 6 throughout the World Cup, but as woes at the top of the order persisted, he has now been returned to the opening position, where he has sporadically batted before. “I’m happy opening the innings because that gives me time to settle down and score big innings,” he said. “Unfortunately I couldn’t make that 60 into a hundred. I’m very disappointed about that, but I’m happy about my role. I’ve been batting everywhere from opener to No. 8, so I’m used to being moved around.”

McCullum hails ‘great’ performance as Kiwis beat Sri Lanka in World Cup

  Corey Anderson smashed 75 off 46 balls to power New Zealand to 331, New Zealand v Sri Lanka, Group A, World Cup 2015, Christchurch, 14 February     AFP: New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum praised his team after their convincing 98-run win over Sri Lanka in their World Cup opener at a chilly Hagley Oval on Saturday. The Black Caps, widely-regarded as potential title winners in the marathon six-week tournament, piled up 331 for six with McCullum smashing a rapid 65 and Kane Williamson adding 57 in the middle of the innings. Corey Anderson blasted 75 off 46 balls at the finish. “It was a really good performance from the boys. We have been waiting a long time for this so it is great to complete our plans,” said McCullum after his side had been put into bat by the 1996 champions. “The wicket was a bit on the slow side, but there was definitely good bounce and carry. It was great to lay the foundation and then allow the bigger hitters to come in and do the job. It’s great to beat a very tough Sri Lanka team.” McCullum also praised his bowling attack with spinners Daniel Vettori and man-of-the-match Anderson taking two for 34 and two for 18 respectively. “Daniel Vettori was brilliant as always,” said the captain. Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews said his side let themselves down at crucial periods of the Pool A game in which they had been 124 for one at one stage. “We knew it was going to be a good wicket so we knew we had to bowl well, but we started off poorly, and by that time it was too late,” said Mathews. “Especially after the start they got when they reached 100 in the 13th over. We did reasonably well to pull them back, but we gave up 30-40 runs too many. Once we lost the big guys at the top it became tougher on the rest of the guys.” Anderson was delighted to star in his home town: “It’s nice to come back home and play in front of my family and friends,” he said. “I guess this World Cup is the stuff we dream of. There were more nerves than normal.”    

‘Courtsiders’ evicted from first World Cup game

  Reuters: Officials evicted several people from the opening match of the cricket World Cup at Hagley Oval on Saturday after they were suspected of being involved in illicit gambling. The people were all evicted for the practice known as ‘courtsiding’, New Zealand Police said in a statement. Courtsiding involves people at a game relaying information via smartphones or mobile communications devices to gambling syndicates to take advantage of broadcasting time delays. The practice is different from match-fixing, which was made illegal under New Zealand’s Crimes Act last year, where a pre-determined outcome has been assured. Local media had reported witnessing several people being escorted out of the ground in Christchurch and police later said they had been in breach of the ticketing regulations under suspicion of the practice. “We know what to look for,” the New Zealand Police’s officer in charge of the World Cup, Superintendent Sandy Manderson said in a statement. “We’re aware that people are attempting to operate at venues and they will be detected, evicted and trespassed from all venues.” New Zealand beat Sri Lanka by 98 runs in the game, which was largely incident free, though two naked men, known as ‘streakers’ in New Zealand and Australia, had stormed the field in the final moments of the event. Both were brought down by security staff before they got close to any of the players and were escorted out of the venue.