A lot has been written about the Sri Lanka middle order failing in this edition of the World T20. Dinesh Chandimal, who took charge in Angelo Mathews’ absence, rated his line-up as inexperienced.
Other than Milinda Siriwardana and Shehan Jayasuriya, the other batsmen have been in the squad for a while and can’t be termed inexperienced. The middle order failed once more, against South Africa, in the inconsequential match at the Feroz Shah Kotla, but on Monday even the experienced names showed little application.
Tillakaratne Dilshan and Chandimal began at a brisk pace, but in the fifth over Chandimal went for an inside-out drive against spinner Aaron Phangiso, and was bowled. Next ball, the out-of-form Lahiru Thirimanne was cleaned up.
From 45/0, Lanka were on the back foot. The experienced Dilshan (36) was expected to take the lead but displayed impatience and attempted a sweep off Farhaan Behardien, only to be trapped in front.
Throughout the tournament, the side that has batted well built a solid foundation in the first 15 overs and targeted the last five. Mathews (73 not out) had set an example against England by batting through the innings after the top order fell cheaply. His effort reduced the margin of defeat to 10 runs.
Though the side batting first has the pressure of posting a big total, losing wickets made matters worse for Sri Lanka. There was never a situation when they could build a partnership and ended up scoring 120.
By South Africa’s standards, the target was hardly a challenge as the Kotla wicket was conducive for batting. They reached the target by losing two wickets.
Hashim Amla top scored with an unbeaten 56 off 52 balls. Despite Quinton de Kock’s early departure, a partnership between Amla and Faf du Plessis, who was unlucky to be given leg before for 31 despite a big inside edge, all but finished the game.
For South Africa and the defending champions, there is a lot to ponder on. For the 16,000 fans who had come to watch AB de Villiers bat, the quick-fire 20 got them their money’s worth.