“Sri Lanka coach Chandika Hathurusingha certainly has a task in his hands in he is to resurrect Sri Lanka’s fortunes in this tournament and many series to follow”
After registering three continuous wins against South Africa in the limited-overs series at home, one felt hat Sri Lanka had some sort of momentum going into the Asia Cup and would put up a good show. However, if their performance against Bangladesh is to be taken note of, they have taken a step back. Barring Lasith Malinga, their bowlers were below par and their fielding was atrocious. They dropped quite a few vital catches and that eventually cost them the match.
When Malinga was included in the team for the tournament, one sensed that it gave Sri Lanka the edge. He delivered, picking up two wickets in his very first over after returning to Sri Lanka’s ODI squad after a gap of a year. His fielders though let him down on more than one occasion. The old saying, “Catches win matches” held perfectly true for Sri Lanka in their Asia Cup 2018 opener against Bangladesh at Dubai. Had they held on to their catches, Bangladesh would have scored way less than 261 and Sri Lanka would have had a simpler chase on their hands.
As it turned out, letting Mushfiqur Rahim and the returning Mohammad Mithun off the hook took a heavy toll on Sri Lanka. Bangladesh were 1 for 2 at the end of the first over. They had lost Liton Das and Shakib Al Hasan in that span. At the end of the second over, Tamim Iqbal too left the field due to an injury. Everything at that point was in Sri Lanka’s favour. All they had to do was continue their good work, build pressure on the two new batsmen and to hang on to all the chances that came their way.
Malinga’s figures read 4-23 from 10 overs, but in reality, it could have been much, much better. In the 5th over, skipper Angelo Mathews dropped a catch at mid-on, diving forward, after reacting to a top-edge by Mithun a tad late. His dove forward dramatically, but was not good enough to hang on to the catch. Mithun was batting on 1 at that time. In the same over, Malinga bowled an above waist full toss and Mithun flicked it straight into the hands of the fine leg fielder. It was dropped once again! However, lucky for the fielder that it was called a no-ball. One thought that would be the last dropped catch of the day. Sadly, it wasn’t.
After Mithun was given a life earlier, it was Rahim’s turn to level things. In the 10th over, Dilruwan Perera spilt a dolly off Thisara Perera’s bowling at a time when Rahim was batting on just 10. At that point, it seemed as though the Bangladeshi batsmen were trying their best to get out, but the Lankans were just not keen on holding on to their catches.
After Mithun was dismissed for 63 off 68 deliveries in the 26th over, Rahim played a lone hand. He was going to be key for Bangladesh, if they were to get a respectable total. Sri Lanka had yet another chance to stop Rahim in the 37th over, when Dhananjaya dropped a simple catch of Rahim off his own bowling. Rahim was batting on 86 at that point and had de Silva – supposedly the best Sri Lankan fielder – held on to that catch Bangladesh would have been 7 down for 184 with 13 overs still to bat out. Despite a poor show on the field, Sri Lanka would have still been in control of the match and could have restricted Bangladesh to 200-220.
Had Sri Lanka taken all their chances in the opening 10 overs of the match, Bangladesh would have perhaps lost half their side with barely anything on the board. But Bangladesh rode on their luck and went on to post a formidable total.
Mithun who should have been dismissed for a single went on to score 63 off 68 and Rahim went on to score his sixth ODI ton, finishing with 144 off 150. He ideally should have scored less than 10 per cent his runs had Sri Lanka taken their catching seriously. The duo put on 133 for the third wicket and brought some life back into the Bangladesh innings. From there on, Rahim batted with great responsibility and made Sri Lanka pay for their mistakes.
Sri Lanka’s focus leading up to the Asia Cup might have been on just batting and bowling, but they would have learnt how important catching it as well. In fact, the Sri Lankan batsmen too showed very little application while chasing a target, making life much easier for the opposition. Sri Lanka play Afghanistan next and would look to improve from their mistakes against Bangladesh.
They have a rough one year in limited-overs, but they have shown signs of improvement in Mathews’ second coming as captain. Another poor show in the series will take them back right to square one. Sri Lanka coach Chandika Hathurusingha certainly has a task in his hands in he is to resurrect Sri Lanka’s fortunes in this tournament and many series to follow.