De­pleted Sri Lanka of­fer Zim hope

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Sport -

GALLE. — Nor­mally the out­come of a Sri Lanka v Zim­babwe match is among the more straight­for­ward to pre­dict.

Sri Lanka may not al­ways be among the best one-day na­tions, but they have in the past been adept at putting away the weaker sides — star play­ers rarely pass­ing up the chance to buff their stats a lit­tle.

This time, how­ever, Zim­babwe may have an op­por­tu­nity.

Not only has the op­po­si­tion ven­tured a green squad, Sri Lanka are also in some tur­moil — the head coach hav­ing been pushed out by SLC, and their spear­head hav­ing been ef­fec­tively placed on pro­ba­tion. On top of all this, the side was also sub­jected to un­com­monly caus­tic crit­i­cism af­ter their Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy exit, which was seen to be the re­sult of poor field­ing. Zim­babwe, mean­while, come into the se­ries with the un­usual record of hav­ing won al­most as many matches as they have lost this year — though both of their se­ries so far had been against As­so­ciates.

They nar­rowly lost the five-match se­ries against Afghanistan, go­ing into the de­cider tied 2-all be­fore Afghanistan’s spin­ners made short work of them in Harare.

And though Zim­babwe lost the first match to Scot­land in Ed­in­burgh two weeks ago, they romped to a six-wicket vic­tory in the sec­ond game, and fol­lowed that up with a 2-1 win in a List A se­ries against the Nether­lands.

Still, de­spite their de­pleted state, Sri Lanka will be the more con­fi­dent side in the ap­proach to the game.

Even if things go badly for the ju­nior play­ers, in La­sith Malinga, An­gelo Mathews and Upul Tha­ranga, they will feel they have enough ex­pe­ri­ence to pre­vail. Malinga has been at the centre of the fall­out from Sri Lanka’s Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy exit, and will be es­pe­cially keen to un­der­score his value to the Sri Lankan team, fol­low­ing a frus­trat­ing cam­paign in Eng­land. Zim­babwe are just the kind of op­po­nents he could bounce back against.

Though many in Zim­babwe’s XI have played against him be­fore, they will not have faced him at length.

And while he’s not as quick as he once was, the york­ers re­main ac­cu­rate, and the slower ball is still dif­fi­cult to parse.

Though he didn’t play in that five­match se­ries against Afghanistan, cap­tain and legspin­ner Graeme Cre­mer has re­cently put to­gether an im­pres­sive run of form — tak­ing a five-for in that ODI vic­tory against Scot­land, hav­ing also claimed 14 wick­ets in six List A games for the Mid West Rhi­nos in Zim­babwe’s Pro50 com­pe­ti­tion. He has not taken a wicket in two pre­vi­ous matches in Sri Lanka, but may per­haps break that duck on a Galle pitch that has tra­di­tion­ally been known to take turn.

“We rely heav­ily on our spin­ners. If there’s a bit of spin we can ex­ploit that. Af­ter the Hol­land and Scot­land tours we found that we have lot of bat­ting depth. We bat all the way up to num­ber ten.”

Zim­babwe cap­tain Graeme Cre­mer on why his team might en­joy a lit­tle ex­tra turn from the Galle sur­face.

“Con­sis­tency is some­thing we are look­ing for, and we saw it in the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy where we didn’t med­dle with the bat­ting or­der too much,’’ said Cre­mer.

Sri Lanka cap­tain An­gelo Mathews spoke on his team’s top or­der.

“It’s one as­pect we are not trying to ex­per­i­ment too much with. We will try and go with the same six to eight bat­ters in the next few months.” — Cricinfo

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