Mon, 19 Aug 2019

Sri Lanka's less-heralded players helped ease through the side's first test in the UK, as they beat Scotland by 35 runs via the DLS method.

Opener Avishka Fernando, who had had a poor tour of South Africa earlier this year, produced 74 off 78 balls, while Dimuth Karunaratne, on ODI captaincy debut, made 77 off 88. The pair put on 123 runs for the first wicket. Kusal Mendis also contributed 66 off 56 balls through the middle overs, but it was bowler Nuwan Pradeep who impressed most of all, taking 4 for 34 in the rain-shortened second innings.

For Karunaratne, the match was not only a test of his leadership, but also an examination of his batting. Having not played ODIs since the 2015 World Cup, there have been doubts over whether he could score quickly enough in this format. He was dropped twice before eventually being caught at long-on, but in making a half-century, and providing the middle order with a good platform, Karunaratne suggested he was not completely out of place in ODIs.

"Playing an international one-dayer after such a long time is not easy," Karunaratne said afterwards. "I was under pressure early on and was struggling a little bit. But once I got set and thought about how to play - which bowlers I should target - I felt better. Fortunately, I got a couple of chances. But thanks to the runs I got, I got some confidence.

"Avishka was excellent as well. We know how capable he is. He can hit hard and rotate the strike as well. We talked to him about what we needed from him. Unfortunately, he couldn't get a hundred, but I think he can get a big hundred in the World Cup."

Sri Lanka made 322 for 8 in their 50 overs, but had seemed set for a score of over 350 at one point, before they experienced a serious middle-overs stutter. Having been 203 for 1 at the end of the 33rd over, Sri Lanka mustered only 19 more runs in the next seven overs, as they lost three quick wickets. While that slowdown was not ideal, it was important that Mendis and Lahiru Thirimanne stabilise the innings at that stage, Karunaratne said. Sri Lanka later made 99 runs in the final ten overs.

"We planned to bat out 50 overs, so when we were struggling in the 33rd over - we had lost a couple of wickets, in Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera - we were trying to make sure we batted long. Kusal Mendis was playing well, and Lahiru Thirimanne went in and did a good job. When you have wickets in hand, you can go for it at the end. We were struggling through that period, but we rotated the strike, and in the last ten overs we went for our big shots."

Although they had a substantial score to defend, the arrival of rain partway through Scotland's innings had complicated the task of Sri Lanka's bowlers, who were visibly struggling to grip the ball. Pradeep, though, was able to maintain excellent control, and was rewarded with the Player of the Match award for his returns.

"When Scotland were going quite well, I spoke to Nuwan Pradeep and asked him to try a couple of bouncers," Karunaratne said. "He did that really well and we were able to squeeze them through that middle period. It's not easy to bowl yorkers, especially with the ball getting wet because of the rain. If you don't execute it well it will go for a six. But Pradeep knows how he has to bowl, and he went for the straight yorker. I hope he takes that confidence into the World Cup."

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