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Sri Lanka aims to top the pool

R.K. Radhakrishnan
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Injuries and batsmen's performances worry Zimbabwe

IN RIGHT EARNEST: Mahela Jayawardene (right) discusses some points with Sri Lanka's chief selector Aravinda de Silva on the eve of the match against Zimbabwe on Wednesday. — PHOTO: AP
IN RIGHT EARNEST: Mahela Jayawardene (right) discusses some points with Sri Lanka's chief selector Aravinda de Silva on the eve of the match against Zimbabwe on Wednesday. — PHOTO: AP

A confident Sri Lanka will take on a struggling Zimbabwe in a Group A ICC-World Cup encounter here on Thursday.

A Sri Lankan win would propel it to the top of the group, currently occupied by New Zealand after its comprehensive win over Pakistan.

Sri Lanka vice-captain Mahela Jayawardene, who addressed a press conference on Wednesday, said that Sri Lanka played quite a bit of provincial cricket here and hence the pitch itself did not hold much surprise.

Plus, it had also played a Test against the West Indies here.

There is only one Sri Lankan in the 15-member squad who has not got an opportunity to be part of the XI — Dilhara Fernando. Asked about his chances, Jayawardene would only say that his chances were bright, but both Thisara Perera and Nuwan Kulasekara had performed well too. In any case, a decision would be taken on Dilhara after the team meeting.

“We have a lot of options in both the pace and spin bowling departments… Lasith (Malinga) coming back into the team has added a lot of flexibility to our bowling attack,” he said.

Consistent

Jayawardene described his team's performance so far as “consistent” and said that there was “still room for improvement.”

“It's a big tournament and it's a long tournament. So it is important that we be consistent…We get the big, tough games in the next few weeks. I am happy with the way we started the tournament and where we are right now,” he said.

On Zimbabwe, he said that no serious team could take any team in the tournament lightly. “Zimbabwe is a very good all-round side. We have come across them quite often and they can be a surprise package. We just want to concentrate on our performance,” he said

If a few players click, the game would turn on its head. Hence it was always important to play the best possible XI after taking note of the pitch conditions. Sri Lanka would treat no opponent lightly, he added.

Zimbabwe has injury worries. Sean Williams has gone home and one more player, Chris Mpofu too has a knee problem. But the bigger worry is the performance of its batsmen, its captain Elton Chigumbura said.

Biggest challenge

“The biggest challenge is the first 15 overs… In the first 15 overs, our batsmen have been most disappointing so far… We will work on keeping our wickets in the first 15 overs,” he said.

He said that he watched the New Zealand-Pakistan game on Tuesday and was of the opinion that the pitch would assist seam bowlers.

Asked how the team proposed to overcome this situation since Zimbabwe's strength was its spinners, he said that the team's spinners were not big turners of the ball. A bouncy pitch would certainly aid them.

The teams (from):

Zimbabwe: Elton Chigumbura (captain), Regis Chakabva, Chris Mpofu, Charles Coventry, Graeme Cremer, Terry Duffin, Craig Ervine, Greg Lamb, Shingirai Masakadza, Tinashe Panyangara, Ray Price, Vusi Sibanda, Tatenda Taibu, Brendon Taylor and Prosper Utseya.

Sri Lanka: Kumar Sangakkara (captain), Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Dilhara Fernando, Rangana Herath, Chamara Kapugedera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Ajantha Mendis, Muttiah Muralitharan, Thisara Perera, Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Silva and Upul Tharanga.

Field umpires: Nigel Llong and Marais Erasmus. Third umpire: Tony Hill. Match referee: Chris Broad.

Match starts at 2.30 p.m.

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