DAMBULLA, Tuesday: Rain in Dambulla is a rare occurrence. That’s what the Sri Lankan team experienced towards the end of their practice session at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium yesterday as they prepared to take on South Africa in the second ODI under lights today.
The possibility of rain interfering with play cannot be ruled out as it is quite cool here at this time of the month.
Having lost the first ODI (a day match) played here on Sunday, Sri Lanka has to raise their level of play and turn things around if they are to be in contention in this five-match series. Another loss is what they cannot undergo as the pressure will be too much on them to win the next three matches on the trot – something which they have not achieved in recent times.
South Africa ranked 3 in ODIs in comparison to Sri Lanka’s 8 are favourites to win the series if one is to go by the ICC rankings. But it doesn’t always work out that way for in the Test series Sri Lanka ranked 6 outplayed number 2 ranked South Africa.
Unlike in the Tests pitches prepared for the ODIs are not heavily spin-oriented they have to be in favour of the batsman because limited overs cricket is a batsman’s game. In that aspect Sri Lanka who dominated the South African batters with spin in the Tests have to find new ways and means of winning.
Man of the Match in the first ODI South African left-arm spinner Shabraiz Shamsi described the pitch prepared for the first ODI akin to what they get back in Pretoria and the Wanderers with hardly any spin.
But where Sri Lanka lost was not because of the state of the pitch but because their top order failed miserably against South Africa’s fast bowling attack led by Kagiso Rabada to put up a competitive total on the board for their bowlers to have any chance of drilling holes in the Proteas batting line-up.
Sri Lanka will have a slight edge in the second ODI because it will be the same pitch that will be used for today’s match and the chances are that it will be drier than what it was three days ago. Bearing that in mind Sri Lanka may opt for an extra spinner to their line up at the expense of one of their fast bowlers Lahiru Kumara who has been ruled out of the match after splitting the webbing between the ring and little finger of his left hand during training.
As Sri Lanka’s batting coach Thilan Samaraweera pointed out South Africa’s strength lay in the first 8-10 overs where their fast bowlers Rabada and Lungi Ngidi come hard at you. If Sri Lanka can survive that initial ordeal of pace without losing wickets the batsmen should be able to put up a substantial score on the board. This was substantiated by the Kusal Perera-Thisara Perera 95-run stand for the sixth wicket where 64 runs were taken off the six overs bowled by Willem Mulder and Andile Phehlukwayo who had replaced Rabada and Ngidi.
Skipper Angelo Mathews is quite aware that in ODI cricket it is a different ball game where the wickets are not dusty and spin oriented like in the Tests and that his bowlers will have to think out of the box to outwit the South African batsmen.
“We need to play well in our conditions. They are an experienced side. The Test series I am sure they have learned a few things and while batting they are countering the threat posed by our spinners. We have to counter those plans,” said Mathews at the pre-match press conference yesterday.
“We didn’t bat well and the batters know that we can’t do the same mistakes again. It was disappointing to lose five wickets within the span of eight overs.
If we could have negotiated those eight overs, we could have been in a different position. Losing so many wickets put the middle order under pressure. We would like to rectify that in our next game.
“We strive to improve every day. Training will be the same but the mindset has to change. We don’t have to over think too much. We have four games to go and we have an opportunity to turn things around,” he said.
TEST WICKETS WERE SANDPITS ITS DIFFERENT NOW - RABADA
Rabada said the key to his success bowling on sub-continent pitches was adapting to the conditions.
“Your game plan changes when there is not much assisting you. You’ve got to have different skills and bowl different lengths. It’s all about adapting. I am open to learning. Always not shy to try things and put myself under pressure. At the end of the day, it is the basics. You need to do the basics right and learn different skills.
“You don’t get the same wickets in sub-continent from what you get at home in South Africa. Like I said just adapting and bowling different lengths is the key. Test matches were completely different. They were just sand pits. It’s completely different now. There is good bounce more like a one-day wicket,” he said.
Sunday’s victory was South Africa’s ninth win in a row against Sri Lanka and Rabada put it down to them having executing their game plans well whether it is the batters or bowlers.
He said that it is important after a good start to carry on with the momentum. “We are just looking to continue our game plans. Try and make it 2-0 heading to Kandy which will give us a massive advantage.”