Sri Lanka - A Campaign Of Strength, A Lot Of Bummers > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - Sri Lanka - A campaign of one stunner, plenty of bummers

Lasith Malinga, even in the evening of his career, was Sri Lanka's best player in the world cup, contributing richly in their three wins in the tournament

What worked for them?

That Sri Lanka finished at the sixth position - bettering South Africa, Bangladesh, West Indies and Afghanistan in terms of points - is not something many would have fancied considering the strength of the team on paper. They did punch above their weight and make things interesting in the second half of the tournament although they eventually fell short of qualification.

Their finish notwithstanding, the scare they gave to England - whose defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka left the hosts in a precarious situation - was something that would give Dimuth Karunaratne's side some solace.

What pulled them back? The weather

Their two washed out games against Pakistan and Bangladesh meant that they were left with a lot to do having just managed a solitary win in their first four matches. Having to face teams like Australia, England, South Africa and India in four of their last five matches, Sri Lanka just didn't have enough fire-power to match up to the top sides. Although they did come up with a special effort against England, it was merely a flash in the pan as they just didn't have enough fuel left in the tank for the semifinal race.

What did they sorely miss? The big contributions

Avishka Fernando and Angelo Mathews were the lone centurions for Sri Lanka during the tournament, while Karunaratne's 97 was the third highest individual contribution. Barring these, there were no real big scores from the Sri Lankans batsmen as a result of which the team got past 300 only once in the six times they batted first.

Best player - Lasith Malinga

Many questioned his fitness while there were some who had doubts over his commitment. This was about 12 months back when the aging pacer looked well past his prime. But a lot can change in a year's time and Malinga proved just that.

His frequent flyer miles might be the envy of many air travellers considering the amount of travel he put in - merging IPL and domestic cricket duties to ensure a spot in the World Cup squad, dashing back and forth to the UK after a death in the family, and while doing all that bagging wickets almost effortlessly.

With 13 wickets in seven games, Malinga was the only Sri Lankan whose wickets tally was in the double digits in the World Cup and the 35-year-old played key roles in the three victories that his team managed.

Disappointing player - Thisara Perera

Only one wicket and a bowling average of 207 can be overlooked had Perera contributed something with the bat. His exploits in New Zealand, where he scored 140 and 80 in a couple of one-dayers, would have given him and Sri Lanka a lot of confidence heading into the World Cup. But he failed to replicate those efforts, not even coming close, as he ended the World Cup with a batting average of 10.16 - with a highest of 27.

What's on the highlights reel?

If nothing, they should get the critics award for the best performance in a leading role - for leading the World Cup on an exciting path. While it appeared like a drab affair of top-ranked nations sailing through to the final four - the lineup of the semi-finalists does suggest the same - there was some life injected towards the latter part of the round-robin when Sri Lanka pulled off a Goliath act against England. Malinga was the star in that show, triggering an England collapse that showed other teams the home team's middle order can also be fragile, especially when it comes to chases.

Meanwhile, Fernando was the find of the tournament for Sri Lanka. He got to play only four games but displayed enough mettle with a couple of promising starts before getting the big one against West Indies to become the third youngest centurion for Sri Lanka at the age of 21. There have been several Sri Lankan batsmen in the recent past who have promised a lot but have not quite delivered on that. A reason for that, as Kumar Sangakkara pointed out recently, is the selectors' trigger-happy nature. In Fernando, they have an investment worth sustaining and it remains to be seen if better sense prevails.

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