Since January, other than openers Dinesh Chandimal and Tillakaratne Dilshan, there has been no constant in the Sri Lankan middle order. There are times when skipper Angelo Mathews has promoted himself up the order, experimenting with others. However, Sri Lanka have been on the receiving end. The last eight T20Is highlight the experiments done in the middle order and no set combination has been tried consistently. As a result, Sri Lanka have managed just three wins this year. Two of them have been against Afghanistan (WT20) and UAE (Asia Cup).
“We are struggling with the middle order. It can happen in big games. We don’t have experienced guys. We have discussed what went wrong in the first two games. We have plans and are confident to execute those in the middle,” said Chandimal on Friday ahead of the clash against England at the Ferozeshah Kotla.
NO SET ORDER
It is not the case of playing rookies. Chandimal seemed to be saying that Sri Lanka lacked experience as far as playing a set batting order was concerned. For starters, all middle-order batsmen, including Chamara Kapugedera, Lahiru Thirimanne, Mathews, Thisara Perera and Milinda Siriwardana certainly don’t lack experience.
Apart from Siriwardana, who is 15 T20Is old, others have been in the side for quite some time. None has been able to pull the side together.
Sri Lanka are fourth in Super 10 Group 2 with one win from two games and need to beat England, who will go through if they notch up a third win in their fourth game.
“We’re concerned about our middle order; if it clicks we will have a good chance. You can’t say every time this is our transformation period. We got some experienced guys as well as good youngsters. We need to join hands and put up a performance,” Chandimal said.
There were selection issues before the WT20. The side picked by the selection panel including Kapila Wijegunawardene had omitted Thirimanne in the draft and dropped then skipper Lasith Malinga on fitness worries. Later, the new selection panel of Aravinda de Silva, Romesh Kaluwitharana and Kumar Sangakkara unanimously agreed to pick Thirimanne and Malinga.
In all these combinations, Thirimanne has stuck to No 3 while others have been shuffled up and down. Kapugedera had scored some runs in New Zealand in January at No 4 but at the Asia Cup, he never had a set batting position.
After the loss to West Indies in Bengaluru, Mathews was asked why as skipper he could not bat higher and take control of the innings. But Mathews said No 5 was the best slot for him.
In the last edition in 2014, which Sri Lanka won, Thirimanne and Mathews had set batting positions because Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara held the middle-order together. The team is still searching for their replacements as none is able to justify being played in these important slots.
The aura of defending champions is missing. If Sri Lanka are to make the semifinals, they will have to win both remaining games. Otherwise, it would be the end of the road.