Sri Lanka will have to dig deep when they face a rejuvenated Zimbabwe side in today's third game of the triangular one-day international series in Bulawayo. The islanders will be confident they have enough experience and fire-power to bounce back from a seven-wicket defeat against India on Sunday. A bright spot in that loss was the return to form of Tillakaratne Dilshan, the captain, who made a well compiled 61 before being run out.
Sri Lanka were put in to bat on a tricky wicket that offered help for both spin and seam bowlers in the first period of play due to overnight rain. Dilshan blamed the loss of wickets at crucial times, including the two run-outs, as being the main reason they were restricted to 242 and not getting a score in excess of 280. "To defend a score of 240-odd we had to bowl in the right areas and take half-chances," said Dilshan in a post-match television interview.
"It went wrong with the bat, with a couple of run-outs and some untimely wickets. Had that not happened, we could have ended up with 280 or 290, and it might have been a different game." The Sri Lankans are expected to field the same team, and they have batting depth to No 7. And their bowlers, both pace and spin, are players who have been in the squad on a regular basis. Dilshan and Upul Tharanga are both experienced openers in the one-day format, and they are backed up by Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Silva, Angelo Mathews, Chamara Kapugedera and Thissara Perera.
With Ajantha Mendis and Suraj Randiv, the two spinners, and the pacemen Dilhara Fernando and Nuwan Kulasekera, the Sri Lankans will start as the favourites. But Zimbabwe, the tournament hosts, will also be confident after having beaten India in the opener, when they were chasing a score of 285. "Our players have played more games now than some of the cricketers we come up against, and we cannot go on blaming inexperience anymore," Elton Chigumbura, the Zimbabwe captain, was quoted in Cricinfo.
"I am hoping to make a difference with my captaincy. We are capable of winning games." Against India every Zimbabwe batsman made a contribution, with Brendan Taylor and Craig Ervine being the picks, both hitting half centuries. Chigumbura added: "We have four spinners who like strangling the batsmen and two of them - Ray Price and Prosper Utseya - have no problem in operating within powerplays. "We will try to get you with spin, tackle it if you can. It's going to be interesting to see how Sri Lanka tackle that threat."
* Compiled by Amith Passela with agencies