x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Sangakkara blames batting failure for final heartbreak

The disappointed Sri Lankan captain hopes that his team will get stronger and learn from the World Twenty20 final defeat.

LONDON // Sri Lanka's captain, Kumar Sangakkara, makes a point of treating the twin imposters of triumph and despair with equanimity. That is easier said than done, especially given the way in which his side - who had blazed an undefeated trail to a final in which they started as strong favourites - lost, not to mention the outside influences on his players.

Much has been made of the fact Pakistan's success at the World Twenty20 was a gift to their troubled people, to deliver them away from "bombs and death" for a while, at least. But the external factors weighing on Sri Lanka's players were no less serious. Every one of their matches was attended by a phalanx of protesters, appealing for international attention to the Tamil cause. As Pakistan's supporters revelled in their final glory, turning the Wellington and St John's Wood roads into scenes more reminiscent of Karachi or Lahore, the Sri Lankan protesters ploughed on.

The Grace Gates were locked shut as they positioned themselves opposite, shouting slogans and waving banners. A balloon, which was even visible from inside the ground during the play, above the Tavern Stand, carried the message: "Don't support genocide. Boycott Sri Lankan cricket." Sangakkara was unable to give his people the "gift" his counterpart, Younus Khan, had so proudly lavished on his compatriots.

"It is heartbreaking when you lose in the final, but Pakistan outplayed us," said Sangakkara, who did all he could in the final, repairing early damage with a neat half-century. "We have had a great tournament, unfortunately we couldn't get it right with our batting. "It was always tough for our bowling unit to keep defending totals right throughout the tournament when we probably could have scored 20 runs more.

"Hopefully we can get stronger, get better, learn from what we've done and we've got a lot more cricket coming up. We'll look forward to more cricket to toughen us up mentally and physically." Their troubles in the final were summed up by the blunting of the man who was supposed to be their main weapon, Ajantha Mendis. Kamran Akmal, Pakistan's wicketkeeper-batsman played the first two deliveries from the mystery spinner as if he had little clue as to what was going on. He then slogged the next into the Tavern Stand, and the die was cast.

Mendis, whose mastery over every opponent has been total so far in his year-long international career eventually sent down four overs for no wicket, and the concession of 34 runs. Seemingly for the first time since sending down a carom ball on the international stage, the smile had left his face. "They have seen a lot of Mendis over the last few months and they have learned, but he is still our star bowler. We back him 100 per cent against any side," added Sangakkara.

"He is used to winning matches for us, but unfortunately we didn't have enough runs on the board for him to have an impact." pradley@thenational.ae