There are very few things as mesmerising as attacking batting against the new ball in cricket. Not many manage to master this art, as batting against the new ball is a difficult task. Sri Lanka are going through a rebuilding phase and a lot of their success will depend on how the young guns fare and develop into vital cogs of the side. Over the years, Sri Lanka have been a force to reckon but have not managed to inspire similar confidence since the retirement of Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Muttiah Muralitharan. Even Lasith Malinga is in the twilight of his career. Sri Lanka have not been short of talent and have some impressive young guns, who are all ready to reconstruct Sri Lanka into a dominating force.
A glimpse of what the young guns from Sri Lanka are capable of doing was witnessed in the ICC Champions Trophy clash against India. Sri Lanka beat the tournament favourites in a run-chase and did that with some style. Sri Lanka gunned down the target of 322 convincingly in the 49th over with seven wickets to spare against a bowling attack, which hailed of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja. It was some attacking approach with the bat, which created an upset for India. They almost pulled off a do-or-die game against Pakistan, but dropping catches at crucial junctures didn’t let them achieve fruitful results as they failed to make it to the semi-finals.
In the ongoing One-Day International (ODI) series against Zimbabwe, Sri Lankan batsmen have done a commendable job in getting runs on the board. After losing the first contest, Sri Lanka bounced back hard and have taken a healthy lead by winning the third encounter at Hambantota. With two more games to go, the pressure of making a comeback is now on the visitors.
Although scoring runs have become comparatively easy in contemporary cricket but chasing a total of over 300 in Sri Lanka still requires a lot. But, in the ongoing series, a target of 300 above has been chased two times in three matches. The pressure of a run-chase is always mounting and needs the ability and temperament to counterattack it. Sri Lanka chased down the mammoth target of 311 with eight wickets and 16 deliveries to spare riding on the prolific opening stand by Niroshan Dickwella and Danushka Gunathilaka. The duo came out all guns blazing and stitched a 229 runs stand to lay the foundation of a successful run-chase.
Dickwella scored a determined 102 off 116 deliveries and was equally supported by Gunathilaka at the other end. Dickwella scored 14 boundaries to register his maiden ODI ton, which is also his finest ODI performance. He showed good intent with the bat and made good use of the life, which he got while batting on 64. He played according to the situation and didn’t let the required run-rate climb out of their reach.
Dickwella likes to go hard against the new ball and looks to attack. Dickwella can improvise and play some effective unorthodox strokes to garner runs at the top. He cut the first ball of Sri Lanka’s innings behind point for a boundary and got the ball rolling from the outset at Hambantota. Dickwella scored a lot of runs behind the stumps and backed his ability to play the sweep, cut and scoop. While chasing a big target, it is important for the openers to get a flying start. Sri Lanka were well placed at 69 for no loss by the end of 10 overs with both the batsmen attacking and having scored 11 boundaries.
Dickwella pounced on the loose deliveries. By the time he brought up his century, most of the work was done and Sri Lanka just needed a good finish to ensure a scintillating win. Dickwella has played just 17 ODIs so far, but has certainly caught the attention of many with his belligerence. His success at the top is important from Sri Lanka’s point of view as he has the opportunity to cement his spot and develop into a reliable opening batsman in the shorter formats.
Dickwella has not played a lot of international cricket and has a long way to go. But has shown what he is made of and certainly has the ingredients to excel in shorter formats. With just six Tests in his basket, Dickwella has not managed to make a huge impact in whites, where he bats in the lower middle-order. After making Test debut at a tender age of 21 in 2014, Dickwella earned a comeback call in the Bangladesh series at home earlier this year. His comeback was decent with an average of 32.25 and the highest score of 75.
But Dickwella has been dominant in shorter formats at the top. In 17 ODIs so far, Dickwella has garnered 648 runs at 40.50 and a healthy strike-rate of 91.65. He looks to be growing with ever outing and averages 46.40 at an awe-inspiring strike-rate of 95.08 from last 10 ODIs. In Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is), Dickwella boasts of a blistering strike-rate of 147.96 from eight matches. His batting style and approach suits well for shorter formats and has done well so far.
Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews also spoke about the fearless stroke-play of Dickwella and backed him. Mathews was quoted in a report from Cricbuzz saying, “We have backed him to bat the way he wants. We have told him that when he gets a 30 or 40 to bat long and everyone will benefit. Looks like everyone is learning. Niroshan is a fearless cricketer and he wants to take on all the bowlers.”
Dickwella looks promising and with age being on his side, one can expect him to get better. As of now, Sri Lanka will be looking forward to win the fourth ODI and seal the series