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NZ vs SL | Takeaways: Sri Lanka’s problematic defense and New Zealand pacers haunting in a pack

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NZ vs SL | Takeaways: Sri Lanka’s problematic defense and New Zealand pacers haunting in a pack

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Bastab K Parida

06/01/2019

On a slightly green cover, New Zealand rolled Sri Lanka over at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff and started their campaign with a 10-wicket win. While Martin Guptill and Colin Munro batted beautifully, their pacers were the most attractive to watch as they put on a show of short ball, seam and swing.

What was that defense, Sri Lanka?

When New Zealand subjected Sri Lanka to bat on a green surface in Cardiff, it was apparent that Dimuth Karunaratne, master of negotiating the new ball, would have a big role to play. All he needed was to forget the format and dodge the bullet before the middle-order could take over. He did essay his part to perfection though he started his innings in a rather unsure manner. However, others failed to take a clue and their terrible defensive stroke play brought the end of their innings.

Of course, the wicket had a tinge of green on it, but the movement was not palpable. As per Cricviz, the average swing and seam in the first 20 overs this year is 0.64° and 0.53°. However,  today, the swing movement was only 0.5° and the considerable presence of seam movement - which was 0.65° - didn’t really help the cause as the Lankans lost a wicket every six defensive strokes they have played. 

On the other hand, Karunaratne put up a show from his side, however small. With Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry bowling ideal areas, asking a question almost every ball, the Lankan captain batted mostly on the back foot, leaving enough space on the front foot to take a call on whether he should play the delivery or let it go to the wicket-keeper. Most importantly, he also allowed enough downtime to defend on the backfoot when Trent Boult and Henry was taking the ball in. Had the Lankan batsmen been a bit more patient, well, the story could’ve been entirely different.

How did NZ bowlers complement each other

One of the fundamental reasons why New Zealand have never been counted off from any big tournaments is because of their sustained attack in all phases of the game and the smart presence on the wicket. After Kane Williamson inserted Sri Lanka to bat first on a wicket that had sufficient amount of green cover on it, the bowlers started doing the job, in a side-by-side fashion.

After Kusal Perera hit a quartet of boundaries through cover and gully, Matt Henry decided to go for the attack. He kept a tight line, unlike Boult, who was going for the movement that he could generate. The graphic, that was on show during the broadcast, showed that Boult had a really higher arm of release point as compared to what he did in the warm-up and that helped him bowl faster, which added another dimension to the attack. Henry could also feel hard done by the fact that Sri Lankans, despite playing regular false shots, couldn’t really get to connect them more often than not and he had to be contained with his seam movement.

While Henry’s bowling resulted in three wickets, another player who flew under the radar and still put up a terrific display had to be Lockie Ferguson. He donned the role of enforcer and executed the plan to perfection by digging in short in a repetitive manner. That made for an arresting watch considering the kind of impact Henry and Boult were having at the other side of the wicket.

Change your approach, Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan cricket’s plight in the last few years has been well documented and there has been no doubt about the fact who started as the favourites. However, a team that was statistically the most consistent team in the year between 2007 and 2015 - reaching five ICC finals and two semi-finals - someone, in some corner of the world, must have expected that Sri Lanka wouldn’t just show up. There was a sense of pride and kindred spirit among the Sri Lankan fans, but today’s performance was way worser than their recent shambolic cricket. 

Let’s get one thing out. Like yesterday’s pitch for Pakistan and West Indies, this one at Cardiff was not played on a very “difficult” surface. There was a considerable amount of seam movement early in the innings, but the swing was minimal, making the game a battle of grit and spirit. When Kusal Perera hit those flashy drives through cover, for a moment, it reminded everyone of the outlandish talents of Sanath Jayasuriya. However, once he was dismissed, it was New Zealand all the way as the vanquished land of Cardiff saw yet another Sri Lankan batting collapse.

With the ball, Lasith Malinga generated more swing than his Kiwi counterparts, but all of them rendered ineffective as Colin Munro and Martin Guptill used the pace of the wicket to dictate the course of the game. Once failed, Malinga concentrated in getting things right of his own bowling and became self-centred. While that was not exactly a bad idea, the fact that the plan needed him to fire instantly and that didn’t have any room to experiment. As the game ended, it was the fans who thought, “why had they done to deserve all this?”.

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