By Srian Obeyesekere
In a 102-run world cup downsizing by record breaking South Africa, Sri Lanka can yet pick themselves up from the battle-scarred dust of the daring challenge mounted to achieving the 429 target that they roared after true to the trademark Lions dubbed slogan falling short literally in a last post thrust in tasting defeat in their opening fixture. It is best exemplified by the showdown blazing to the world record highest aggregate of 714 runs between the two sides. In that vein Dasun Shanaka and his charges bordering on the batsmen and the skipper above on a gutsy comeback 68 from the dumps can yet raise their heads in a type of heartening trend from that yet acrid defeatist smoke in regrouping for the next hurdle versus Pakistan on tomorrow October 10 at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Uppal, Hyderabad.
The Lankans matching the South Africans shot for shot up to the 40th over in reaching an equal equation of 291 by the 40th over as their opponents 39.4 to be exact was enthralling drama which had they traversed what boiled down to literally an extra mile of 102 given the pace they kept up would have been another world record.
Surely, hats off to Dasun Shanaka and a deserving pat on the back to making the worst scenario of taking strike at 150 for 5 with the cream gone after 20.1 overs staring at a sky-high target to batting himself back to form from a dire form slump that had dwarfed him to finding a spring in his step having walked in as the last bastion on a thread given that harrowing experience the skipper had gone through. That Shanaka did not fade as he had in that long running extinguishing that had haunted him ghost like to shedding aside the hovering rust to coming to his own to falling at 68 having brought the score to 291 after 39.4 overs was indeed galling stuff as he wove his willow growing in thick and thin to going that far on the back of three to the stands and crossing the boundary line on six occasions.
Of course, the two playmakers to that valiant effort were firstly vice-captain Kusal Mendis by a trailblazing 76 off 42 powered by as many as 8 over the top and 4 boundaries followed by middle order lynchpin Charith Asalanka who blazed to 79 off 65 fired by 4 over the top and 8 to the ropes. It was creditable No.4 Sadeera Samarawickrama too tried his best with 23 off 19 in keeping up the run tempo hitting 3 boundaries and a six.
The lesson from that defeat is certainly that Sri Lanka lacked the muscle worth of the characteristically explosive Kusal Janith Perera who fell for 7 though having lasted to supporting Mendis in a useful 66-run stand for the second wicket following the third ball dismissal of Pathum Nissanka for a duck. It was so that the usually Mr. Reliable Dhananjaya de Silva in the muscling pivotal lower order rank of 6 fell for 11, but Kasun Rajitha emerged as a plus point to the Lankan camp to looking ahead with a gutsy 33 off 31 fearlessly sending one to the stands coupled with 4 across in a never give up resolve to the end.
The Lankan recouping in fronting Pakistan would be focused on going one better on Saturday’s batting performance while Pakistan being stretched by a fighting Netherlands in winning by 81 runs has kindled punctuations within. It took Mohammad Rizwan (68 off 75 balls) and Saud Shakeel (68 off 52 balls) to stave off an early batting collapse. The Netherlands were bowled out for 205 in 41 overs, but Pakistan’s fielding and their spinners’ use of the conditions have run into question. Netherlands pacer Bas de Leede took 4 for 62 to cause problems for Pakistan and he capped it with an all-round performance scoring 67 off 68.
However, Pakistan remains a formidable side not to be underestimated capable of big totals and does pack a pack of formidable fast bowlers.