Despite 29 Extras Team Sri Lanka Falls Short of Victory
Posted on February 27th, 2011

Dilrook Kannangara

Pakistan team was in disarray after a series of dilemmas not to mention the dire state the nation is in. But they have put all that to the back of their heads, played a long and hard game to win a crucial match. Odds were stacked against Sri Lanka from the start. In all previous six meetings at World Cup matches of these two teams, Team Pakistan won. That is a remarkable record to have. Now it stands 7-0 to Pakistan. Not winning the toss was another bad omen. Pakistani batsmen played with intent while Sri Lankan bowlers and fielders did well to allow only 9 extras. Pakistan on the other hand allowed a staggering 29 extras.

 So what went wrong? Allowing Team Pakistan amass 277 runs is a sure sign of a weak bowling attack. Fielding was good despite a few mix ups. Bowling changes were not made properly which is a consistent weakness of Sangakkara. Few early high scoring overs for Pakistan and Sri Lanka’s inability to match them costed the team badly when it came to crunch time. To his defence, there wasn’t much choice of bowlers. Thilan is now a batsman or supposed to be one! He is no longer utilised as a bowler. Dilshan proved expensive in his one over. A bowler in his place would have been handy. In fact it would have been much more productive if we played Sanath Jayasuriya in place of Thilan in yesterday’s game. Thilan didn’t contribute in run outs or catches either.

 Although Thilan and Dilshan used to be good spin bowlers, they aren’t any more. It is freighting to note that there aren’t any batsmen who can spin the ball (Sanath, Aravida, Arnold) and spinners who can skin the ball (Kalpage, Upul Chandana). 

 However bowlers are not to take the blunt of the blame. Despite the dismal record for chasing at Khettarama, 277 runs in this time of the ODI era is not much. It is a gettable total. In fact Sri Lanka came very close to it! If aspiring to win the World Cup, Sri Lankan batsmen should be able to score and chase totals of 300. Maintaining the required run rate, 5.56 in the last game, is the responsibility of all batsmen. It is acceptable to stabilize the innings at the start giving a high run rate a low priority. Sri Lanka had a steady start. But once stabilized, it is a must to accelerate the rate to what is required. Leaving it to the next batsman is not acceptable. “ƒ”¹…”Get the required rate or get out’ is not an option because the incoming batsman will have to face more balls to stabilize the innings. Then pressure builds up even more. Established batsmen should steadily accelerate the rate without going for rash shots.

 Only Mathews, Thisara and Nuwan at the tail end had a strike rate sufficient to win the match!

 With such poor batting performance Sri Lankans certainly didn’t deserve to win against Pakistan. Taking out the 29 extras, batsmen ought to have scored 249 runs from about 302 balls (300 balls plus no balls and wides minus 18 extras for approximation). That is equal to a strike rate of 82.4%. Deficit is calculated based on the required strike rate (82.4%) times the number of balls faced and the runs of each batsman. Silva (7), Mahela (6) and Dilshan (5) had the highest deficit. In other words Silva needed to score only another 7 runs to come in line with the required strike rate; Mahela 6, Dilshan 5, etc. Some sensible batting by all would have easily got these targets.

  Runs Balls  Deficit   Ideal 
Tharanga 33 43             3           36
Dilshan 41 55             5           46
Sangakkara 49 61             1           50
Mahela 2 10             6             8
Thilan 1 4             2             3
Silva 57 78             7           64
Mathews 18 20            (2)           18
Thisara 8 6            (3)             8
Nuwan 24 14          (12)           16
Rangana 4 10             4  
Murali 0 1             1  
Extras 29 18           –             29
Total 266 320           12         278

This is a defeatist trend that is forming. Leaving the acceleration of the run rate to the tail end or the middle order is not gong to win matches. When Sri Lanka was winning it was the exact opposite! When the team was rampaging the opposition, accelerated run rate was introduced at the very start.   

 Inability to replicate that strategy means Sri Lanka don’t stand a chance to be the champions this time. This must change.

 There are a few mathematical certainties that are at play in determining the fortunes of a team. One such certainty is the ease or otherwise of increasing the run rate by one (1). If the current rate needs to be increased by one within an over, batsmen should score the current run rate plus the over number in the next over. For example if the current run rate is 3 at over number 15, 19 runs in the 16th over would increase the run rate to 4. If the run rate at the end of the 8th over is 4; scoring 13 runs in the 9th over would boost the run rate to 5. If the run rate at over number 3 is 4, just 8 runs in the fourth over makes it 5 with ease. Needless to say this becomes harder and harder as the inning progresses. After the 36th over, it is mathematically impossible to increase the run rate by one within one over. This means a healthy run rate must be build as early as possible. And that needs just one good over. Thereafter it is only a matter of maintaining it. That is why it is crucial to maintain a high run rate from the start without leaving it till late.

 The other way to increase the run rate is to persistently score a higher number of runs in multiple overs. But this is more difficult given that there would not be good consecutive overs. To make matters harder, the less the wickets in hand, the harder it is to score more runs with ease. The confusion about the middle order and “ƒ”¹…”middle overs’ should be cleared. “ƒ”¹…”Middle overs’ are from about 15 to 40. This is where the bulk of the runs used to come in the past. However, things have changed. More runs come from the other 25 overs at the start and the end. Still, steadying the innings take place during these crucial “ƒ”¹…”middle overs’. There is absolutely no direct connection between the “ƒ”¹…”middle overs’ and the middle order! Top order includes batsmen up to the fourth in order; middle order from the fifth batsman to the seventh and the lower order is eighth batsman to the eleventh.

 The debacle against Pakistan which may be recurring unless corrected is not primarily the result of a frail middle order. It has more to do with the top order not scoring enough runs fast enough in the first fifteen overs and then in the “ƒ”¹…”middle overs’! Sangakkara admitted this following the match. Runs deficit of the middle order was only 7 whereas it’s 15 in the top order. Field restrictions at the start of the innings should give the batsmen a head start with a run rate higher than the required rate. If this was not achieved by the top order it is very difficult to chase a reasonable score.

 World Cup 2011 campaign just started. There are many more matches to play. Fixing the deficiencies early is the key to victory. It is very difficult to win all the matches but if the quarter final, semi final and the final are won in succession that is sufficient. Other matches need to be won to get there and face any unforeseen events. Team Sri Lanka will surely bounce back.

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