Monday, 23 January 2012

What did South Africa and Sri Lanka get from the series?

What a series this has been, full of thrills and chills! Except for the first match, this series has been an enjoyable contest, on paper South Africa may look the tougher side, but Sri Lanka showed by the end that they can’t be written of just as yet. In the beginning, they hardly seemed the side that had reached the world cup finals, but showed glimpses of it by the end. The last two matches would have gained Sri Lanka a lot of confidence, just what they need for a tough series ahead against two of the best one day sides nowadays.

Sri Lanka battled hard at the end of the series, youngsters and seniors both stepping up. That had not been the case earlier, the issue was that the senior batsmen weren’t performing. Dilshan, Sanga, Tharanga and Matthews, they hardly performed in the beginning of the series. The simple totals that were put up earlier were all thanks to the youngsters. Chandimal impressed a lot this series, showing a lot of maturity and his adaptability to play according to the situation. As did Thirimanne in the last match, showing his got potential in the ODI arena by putting up a match winning partnership with Sangakarra. Batting failures in the early matches is what may have cost Sri Lanka the series, but heres another factor, their fielding. 

Honestly, it disappointed me a lot this series, and was the main difference between these two sides. They dropped so many chances which allowed batsmen to make big runs later on. Such as the drop of Ab De Villiers in the final Odi, he went on to make a big hundred when dropped by the captain himself. They also allowed the batsmen to take too many easy singles, could have saved around 2o runs each match had the fielders inside the circle been more attacking. This is what lost them the 3rd ODI, had South Africa been a few runs short, they would have lost, if only the Sri Lankans had saved a few more singles.

Some poor bowling was also exhibited by them, it would be some good tight bowling and then a few loose balls thrown in which would give the batsman confidence to take on the good balls too. Their pace bowling was haphazard the last match. Their figures were disastrous, even Malinga's whos usually the stand out bowler. The Sri Lankan pace attack is not bad, but needs improvement, especially because fast bowlers play a huge role when playing in Australia. Lasith Malinga should keep up the good work, always chipping in with wickets, would like to see his economy rate improve though. Kulasekara needs wickets, hasn’t been bowling as bad as his recent figures suggest, but better results are expected from a strike bowler. Perera has been useful, bowled well throughout the series except the last match where he was thrown around the park. The Sri Lankan spin attack performed well, although I would like to see Suraj Randiv back in the side.

The Sri Lankan batting managed to make up for their poor fielding and bowling in the last two matches, chasing over 300 targets twice in a row, showing their strength in batting second. These wins were a relief for the camp, a well deserved one. Some pressure must have gotten off the skipper, who must be aware that his days as captain are limited, but he finally was able to score some useful runs these two matches. Played good knocks both matches setting the platform for the rest of his batsmen. In the 4th ODI Perera batted with positivity, something the other batsmen had failed to show. He has great potential as a hitter, and a true match winner. In the 5th Odi it was Sanga’s show, got to see a typical classy innings from him, which was due for a while.

The Sri Lankan batting line up must perform consistently in the future if they are to win games, more runs are required from the top. Perhaps more good knocks will be produced by Dilshan once the captaincy burden is taken of him. The question is, Thirimanne has performed in the place of Mahela, so has the rest of the line up. Theres no one who seems likely to be left out, so will the Sri Lankan selectors make way for the senior who has been out of form lately for a youngster who has shown a lot of potential? Knowing them, they’ll go with Mahela, and that’s understandable since the tri-series will be a huge one, and their best players will be required, but they should look at this from a rebuilding point of view too, this would be great exposure for Lahiru!

News on the block is that this may have been Dilshans last series as ODI captain, SLC should be grateful for that! Captaincy just wasn’t his thing, he was rubbish at it. News is Mahela has been offered captaincy once again, and his said he’ll think about it. SLC went through one of its best periods with him as skipper, and I believe he’ll be able to do a good job with such a talented side but I hope their cricket board has thought this decision through. Handing the captaincy to Matthews may be more fruitful in the longer run, since he is a youngster and has shown leadership abilities, more likely to stick around in 2015 then Mahela too. The only disadvantage I can see from this is that Matthews may have too much load on him considering hes an all-rounder, but he’s a strong player, I believe he can step upto the task.

As for South Africa, overall a good series for them, AB seems like a perfect choice for the team. He led from the front with some awesome batting, although his on-field decisions  to me, were not that great. What I liked about him is that he wasn’t scared to admit he got some decisions wrong at the end of the matches, a natural leader he is! No doubt the best batsmen in the series, consistently scoring big runs at an exceptional strike rate! Some of his shots, my word! It was fantastic to watch him bat, especially when he hit 2 consecutive sixes in the last month of his “AB-scoop”. He has been in incredible form, which was essential for his team in the absence of Amla and Kallis.

One positive for South Africa is the return of Graeme Smiths form, had he not reached that ton in the last Odi, may have been the last we’d see of him in the ODI arena. Badly in need of this ton, Smith would have given him a lot of relief to him and the dressing room, he would have gained a lot of confidence too. The proteas batting was really good this series, managing to cross 300 thrice! Faf and Duminy both performed well this series, but I don’t think theres a place for both of them in the side, and Duminy will surely get the nod. Colin Ingram, I had high expectations from him, only got the chance to bat twice but hardly put runs on the board. Albie Morkel, one of my favourite proteas, I believe needs to be persisted with.  A very talented batsmen, can produce big runs if promoted a bit higher up the order. One question that arises though, is whether AB Is the long term wcket keeping option for South Africa, they have a few young keepers with potential performing in domestic matches, such as Heino Kuhn, should they be given a chance?
South Africas bowling was exceptional the first two matches, but to be honest, disappointed me the last two matches. Failing to defend totals over 300 twice in a row, that’s not very handsome, not what you’d expect of a quality attack. Not that they were helped much by the fielders in the second last match, other then that the fielders provided wonderful support to the bowlers. Morne Morkel and Tsotsobe were rather good, but what South Africa are missing Is a death bowler, perhaps Rory Kleinveldt or Merchant de Lange should be given a chance. What South Africa really missed were two of their best bowlers! Dale Steyn rid them of control in the last two matches, while Johan Bothas exclusion the entire series was just shocking. There were a lot of times when the Sri Lankan run rate needed to be slowed down, no one had been successful to do so, the situation was demanding him! He must be played in the final eleven in the future, a very handy batsman too, better player then Robin Peterson in my opinion.
South Africa with the series trophy.

Its off to New Zealand for South Africa, their chokers tag will be tested there I believe, New Zealand is a quality side, but South Africa rank way higher then them..  Its off to Australia for the Sri Lankans, there they will be tested big time, hard to guess how successful they will be, but an improved show is expected. This was a heck of a series! Filled with both thrillers and dead rubbers! The next time these teams meet, I can guarantee a hell of a showdown. 


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