Sri Lanka have completed 38 ODIs since the start of 2018. In that time, how many individual centuries do you think Sri Lanka batsmen have racked up?
The answer is six. Just half a dozen hundreds in a period of more than two years, which included a World Cup. Two of those hundreds went to Kusal Perera, and one each to Thisara Perera, Danushka Gunathilaka, Avishka Fernando and Angelo Mathews. Unsurprisingly, Sri Lanka have won only 14 ODIs – losing 24 – during this sequence.
Even the victory on Saturday saw several top order batsmen make promising starts, and yet, the highest score on the Sri Lanka card was 52. Ahead of the second match, coach Mickey Arthur has zeroed in on Sri Lanka’s poor conversion rate.
“Our batting was really good in patches on Saturday,” Arthur said. ” In our top six – and those are the guys who have to get us close – we had 52, 50, 47, 20, 5 and 18. That was good that they got in and got some partnerships. But we need a batsman going through. We need one of our batsmen getting a big score.
“Because that allows Thisara Perera and Wanindu [Hasaranga] the freedom to come in at the back end and finish things off. I thought when they came in needing 90, that’s still too far out. You’re going to win three out of 10 games if your 7 and 8 need 90. But if your 7 and 8 walk into the game and you still need 40 to 50 runs, you’re winning eight out of 10. Those are areas we look to improve on.”
The victory, nevertheless, is a fillip not only for the team, but also the new set of support staff, who suggest they’ve brought fresh thinking and a new approach to the set up, which had been without a full-time head coach for several months last year. Prior to the first ODI, Arthur revealed a rough gameplan for Sri Lanka: focus on wicket-taking with the ball, while the top three batsmen have a licence to score quickly through the powerplay. The bowling didn’t quite work out as Arthur had intended, but at least there was aggression at the top of the batting order, with Sri Lanka racing to 78 inside the first Powerplay.
“You can buy into strategy, you can buy into gameplans, and you can buy into work ethic, but you need wins along the way,” Arthur said. “By getting that win, albeit in a very close game, we almost solidified the path we’re on. The guys buy into the game we want to play and buy into our brand of cricket. Wins give you that confidence and that morale boost – that you are actually on the right track. Getting a win in quite a close game does tend to bind the guys quite nicely.”