Soon after the Sri Lanka team returned to the dressing room following a practice session on the eve of their quarterfinal against England, skipper Kumar Sangakkara exited the enclosure.
Rather than walking towards the media centre for the customary interaction, he headed straight to the wicket.Sangakkara first tapped the surface to check the firmness and then had a word with the ground-staff.
However, he would know that more than the nature of the 22-yard strip, the decisive factor in Saturday’s quarterfinal would be handling pressure.
While Sri Lanka would have to live up to the expectations of 20 million nationals — 35,000 of who would be vociferously supporting the team from the stands — England would have to deal with the challenge of fielding 11 physically and mentally fit cricketers.
Sangakkara tactfully avoided questions on home pressure. “That’s the way cricket is played here. World Cup or not, we get a packed house here; it won’t be different tomorrow,” the left-hander said on Friday.
Though the hosts were relieved to hear about Muttiah Muralitharan’s recovery from a hamstring strain, they still have a few areas to ponder on, going into the key clash.
The lower-middle order, for instance, has proved to be a big headache.
Thrice in six league matches, a flurry of wickets have fallen in the death overs. With the top-four coming good on each of the three occasions, it didn’t affect the outcome of any game.
But, in the event of the top-four failing to click, the lower-middle order will certainly be exposed.
England, on the other hand, are hoping for a less-than-dramatic match for a change. Thanks to the numerous close finishes, they have surprisingly emerged as the most entertaining outfit in the tournament. To add to their injury woes, Michael Yardy’s depression has kept England in the limelight.
“We have had a lot of injuries, lot of people coming and going, and I think that tests your resolve as a group. Also, the core of the side has to be able to welcome other people in and make them feel part of the side. That’s something we are good at,” said skipper Andrew Strauss.
Whether they are good at pulling off another surprise on Saturday remains to be seen.