Cricket World Cup 2015

Sri Lanka seek World Cup lift

2015-02-25 11:37
Angelo Mathews (AFP)

Melbourne - Perennial contenders Sri Lanka will fear their own inconsistent form more than their opponents when they meet Bangladesh in the Cricket World Cup at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Thursday.

The Islanders, losing finalists in the last two editions, have had an uninspiring start to the 2015 event, with their batsmen struggling to cope with the conditions in New Zealand.

Angelo Mathews's men were thrashed by the co-hosts in the tournament opener in Christchurch, going down by 98 runs after New Zealand had piled up 331 for six.

A scare awaited them against Afghanistan in Dunedin, as the minnows fought tooth and nail before the Test side scraped through on the back of a century by the ever-reliable Mahela Jayawardene.

Having been shot out for 232, the spirited Afghans reduced Sri Lanka to 18 for three and then 51 for four but failed to build on the momentum as Thisara Perera smashed an unbeaten 47 off 26 balls at the end.

Having left New Zealand with two points from as many games, Sri Lanka will hope the change in scenery and conditions in Australia will galvanise their campaign.

Sri Lanka, the 1996 champions, have proved far superior to Bangladesh, winning 32 of 37 one-day internationals against their Asian rivals so far, and their record in the World Cup is even better.

Bangladesh were hammered by 10 wickets in 2003 and by 198 runs four years later in the teams' only two previous World Cup meetings and Sri Lanka will be overwhelming favourites to extend the streak.

Mathews admitted his team needed to raise their game with both bat and ball, but former captain Jayawardene preferred to look ahead positively.

"To play a tough match like the one against Afghanistan is probably a good thing because we handled a tough situation," he said. "But there is a lot of room for improvement.

"If we can keep working at it and get everything right, it will be great."

Star batsmen Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan are still to fire, but Sri Lanka's main concern will be the indisciplined bowling which saw 16 wides and a no-ball conceded against Afghanistan.

Pace spearhead Lasith Malinga has given away 125 runs in two matches at this tournament so far, showing he is a long way away from striking top form after recovering from ankle surgery last year.

Bangladesh, meanwhile, find themselves in the enviable position of being unbeaten after two games after their second match against mighty Australia was washed out in Brisbane.

The Tigers avenged the loss to Afghanistan in the Asia Cup at home last year with a comfortable 105-run win in Canberra, and now stand a good chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals out of Pool A.

Two wins in their remaining four group matches will steer Bangladesh into the knockout phase, but with Sri Lanka, England, New Zealand and Scotland awaiting them, the task ahead is not easy.

Former Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak, who is Bangladesh's bowling coach, said gaining a point against Australia meant his team could look ahead to the rest of the tournament with confidence.

"There is a lot in this game for us. If we can upset Sri Lanka who are obviously the favourites, it will give us a chance to make the quarter-finals," Streak said.

"The boys are very excited about it. 160 million people in Bangladesh are wishing them well and the boys are focused on the job at hand."

Bangladesh, who will play at the MCG for the first time, have lost seamer Al-Amin Hossain, who was kicked out of the tournament for breaking a team curfew and replaced by Shafiul Islam.

Read more on:    sri lanka  |  cwc 2015  |  angelo mathews  |  cricket

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