- “We didn’t cash in when the opportunity arose”: SA Head Coach Boucher
By Sa’adi Thawfeeq
Having won his first ODI series as captain and as a result giving Sri Lanka the much-needed points to climb up the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Super League standings, Dasun Shanaka said that there are two areas his team needs to improve going forward.
“In our batting we have to improve in how to use the sweep and reverse sweep regularly and we must see how we can make totals of 300-plus. In the bowling it is at the death. Those are the two areas that we have to improve at the moment,” said Shanaka at the post-match press conference after Sri Lanka had beaten South Africa by 78 runs in the third and final ODI at the R. Premadasa Stadium to clinch the series 2-1.
“If you take our team that played today (Tuesday), only two players had played more than 50 ODIs – Dhananjaya (de Silva) and (Dinesh) Chandimal. As a team, we can go for our targets if we have experience in our side. There is no point in a player being in the squad for 10 years if he doesn’t have the experience behind him. It is by playing that you gain the experience, and we can learn from that player. I am confident that this squad will improve with time.”
When questioned about the Lankan batsmen’s difficulties against facing spin, Shanaka replied: “Any match we should try to preserve our wickets. A good example was in the first ODI, I didn’t see any weakness against spin from our batsmen. Because we didn’t lose early wickets, we were able to tackle the spinners well. In the second ODI we lost three early wickets to seam, and our middle order was exposed, and they had to first settle down and build a partnership. On occasions like that, there are more dot balls played against spin. Only recently our batsmen have started to play the sweep and the reverse sweep frequently. If we can fine tune each area this team can go places. We can win and lose matches but the squad that I have is a good one. Each player knows what is expected from them.”
Charith Asalanka, who took the Man of the Series award with scores of 72, 77 and 47, said that Shanaka had adopted a policy that whatever the total Sri Lanka has to put up or to chase they should be able to take up the challenge.
On his improvement as a batsman, Asalanka said was that he wants to improve with every game and to do so he always talked to the coaches and senior players and got their ideas.
“The role given to me is to bat for as long as possible until the end of the innings. When you are told what role to play it makes your job easy. Everyone in the squad is happy because they have been told about their roles. As a junior player in the team, it becomes easy, no pressure even to play from one format to the other.”
With pressure growing on World Cup qualification, South African Coach Mark Boucher said that in order to win a series in the subcontinent, the team had got to cash in when the opportunity arises.
“You’ve got to look at where we are playing, we are playing in tough conditions. The history of South Africa against Sri Lanka at the Premadasa Stadium is not a good record that we got,” said Boucher.
“I am looking at the positives, we are missing a couple of senior batters. In the first game, we put up a good fight. If I look at the series as a whole, you come to the subcontinent, you are playing in these conditions and were given an opportunity to win the series. In the first game we were very much in control of that run chase and we slipped up in a matter of five overs.
“It was unfortunate to lose Temba (Bavuma) when we did. That is our biggest regret, that we didn’t finish it off. The second game we played really well and in the last game if you lose a couple of wickets upfront you will be on the back foot.”
“We didn’t start well, that was the turning point of the game. It was quite frustrating because our top order – everyone’s had a good knock in the last two games, they had spent some time out in the middle,” said Boucher.
“The guys were in good form on a wicket that was tough and especially got tougher as the game got on. To lose three wickets in the first five overs and the top six in the first 10 we were on the back foot. We kept up with the rate, but we just lost wickets. That was the big turning point of the game. They did bowl well, bowled smartly. The spinners opened the bowling and bowled in good areas backed up by some good catching as well. You’ve got to give credit to them for putting us on the back foot straight away.” South Africa’s stand-in Captain Keshav Maharaj said that it was a bit of a concern losing out on World Cup points.
“It’s not ideal, as much as we lost the series, we can take a lot of positives out, especially in the first two games the way the batters have approached the bowling. It was disappointing today (Tuesday); we need to go back and reassess and come back with new plans when the ball is turning a little bit more. The World Cup points can be concerning but we can’t focus too much on that. Our main focus is winning ODI games and the rest will take care of itself.”
The loss meant that South Africa remained in ninth position with 34 points, while Sri Lanka moved up to fifth with 42 points.