Sri Lanka Strong Favourites To Go All The Way

Posted: September 19, 2012 by The CouchExpert in Cricket, World T20 2012
Tags: , , , ,

Goutham Chakravarthi

Mahela Jayawardene was right when he brushed aside talks of choking at the final stages of the big tournaments. After all, as one of the strongest contenders, looking too far ahead is the last distraction his team needs at the moment.

Zimbabwe came in after having scared Bangladesh and South Africa in a T20 tri-series recently and were expected to provide stiff opposition to the home team. But for their spinners, their performance was abysmal.

Jeevan Mendis contributed with both bat and ball © AFP

Watching the game from The Cricket Club Café in Colombo was special as it allowed picking the brains of cricket fans from all across the globe. Kyle Jarvis found some early swing. As debutante Dilshan Munaweere bunted a swinging low full-toss to the boundary, the tourists seemed as happy as the locals to have seen him straight in the playing XI. Ungainly fielding lapses helped the Lions to motor along at a rapid rate before the introduction of Utseya slowed things down a bit.The wickets might not be same as they were years ago, and the composition of Sri Lanka’s playing XI is a stark reminder of that. Gone are the days when their spinners squeezed the life out of opponents with their nagging accuracy. Instead, nippy medium-pacers in Kulasekara, Mathews and Perera are now their prime middle-over bowlers with Ajanta Mendis and Lasith Malinga providing the attacking options.

It was always going to be an uphill task for Zimbabwe against such an attack if they didn’t restrict the Lions to fewer than 150. Poor fielding and insipid bowling put paid to that as Sangakkara and Jeevan Mendis put on a crucial 94-run partnership, studded with some very imaginative and powerful stroke play by the southpaws. By the end, the Zimbabweans had run out of breath and were batted out of the game.

Kulasekara found early swing and troubled the Zimbabwean openers. Ajanta Mendis seems to have found mojo again after being back after a long injury lay off. Zimbabwe seemed clueless against him, as Mendis finished with figues of 6 for 8, one that is a bit hard to digest even in a high-school game.

ESPN Cricinfo’s The Two Chucks, Jarrod Kimber and Sam Collins, who were at The Clricket Club Café had different views on Ajanta Mendis. Kimber said, “I’d doubt if they’d even play Mendis in the latter stages of the tournament as most top teams have worked him out.” On the other hand, Sam Collins picked Sri Lanka as his favourite to win the World Cup.

Even as Zimbabwe seemed clueless against Jeevan Mendis and Ajanta Mendis, newly wed couple Kit and Kate Stephenson from the UK seemed unequivocal of their favourites – Sri Lanka.

As Malinga came back to finish a very one-sided opening game to this edition of World T20, it is quite obvious that Sri Lanka have all bases covered and would be one of the strongest contenders for the tile. While no team coming in to the tournament was a runaway favourite, Sri   Lanka might have their noses ahead of others at the moment.

I, for one, would not be surprised to see Akila Danajaya force his way in to the playing XI in the later stages of the tournament at the expense of Ajanta Mendis. It seems to be the norm with Sri Lankan think tank with mystery spinners.

A long way to go yet, but Sri Lanka would be glad to have avoided an early blip.

This article was written for Island Cricket and first published there

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