With the series already in their bag, Sri Lanka will look to go for the kill and sweep the three-match ODI series when they faced a demoralised West Indies team in the final ODI on Sunday at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium.
Sri Lanka snatched a nail-biter in the opening game at SSC before a dominant performance on Wednesday ensured them an unassailable 2-0 lead, severely denting the confidence of the tourists.
At SSC, Sri Lanka rode on the back of Wanindu Hasaranga’s magic to record a narrow one-wicket win but outclassed the opposition in all departments in Hambantota, winning the game by a massive 161 runs on the back of an excellent allround effort.
Given how the hosts went about their business so far, the visitors can hardly expect any respite in Pallekele – the venue for the remainder of the series which includes two T20 internationals – as Dimuth Karunaratne’s men have focused on winning the series 3-0, something that will boost their international cricket rankings.
“Our focus is on winning the series 3-0 for which I think we have a very good chance,” said chief selector Ashantha de Mel. “I don’t think the team management wants to make any changes to the squad, unless it’s really needed, because all what we need now is to make winning a habit.”
Sri Lanka has ticked all the boxes in the series so far. Their batsmen have found the form that they were lacking for a while, the spinners are picking wickets in the middle orders – something that the new coaching staff had worked towards – the pacers have been relentless and their fielding has been impressive.
“Of course there’s room for improvement but I think we have done really well as a unit. Batsmen are converting their 50s to 100s which is a very good sign. The fielding has certainly improved in leaps and bounds. In bowling we have struggled in the middle overs but our spinners are now taking wickets. These are good signs,” de Mel explained.
The only worry is the form of Angelo Mathews who has managed just six runs in the first two outings but given the experience the former captain has under his belt, it’s only a matter of time till he starts firing from all cylinders. The former allrounder is also back in bowling which has given the captain the extra edge.
Spinner Lakshan Sandakan said that the team is targeting to be among the top four teams in all formats within the next 18 months and hence they will push for a win.
“Every member of the team, including the coaches, want to win this series 3-0. When we were losing, we wanted to stop sliding down in the rankings but we couldn’t stop that. But now that we’ve started winning, all what we want is to go up from here,” Sandakan who picked up 3 for 57 in Hambantota said at the pre-match press conference.
West Indies, on the other hand, have not been consistent. They batted well in the opener and fought hard till the dying moments to push for a win but in the second game, they could not cope up with the conditions on offer. They were poor in all three departments and of particular concern is their ground fielding. The tracks, on which the two matches have been played so far, were by no means rank turners but West Indies have themselves to be blamed for the two defeats.
“We didn’t turn up for the game. We didn’t bowl well. Dropped too many catches. In the batting we didn’t put any fight to chase the 345. So I think all we can do is to continue to work hard . So that we can correct it tomorrow,” West Indies Head Coach Phil Simmons said at the pre-match press conference
West Indies batting has revolved around opener Shai Hope. His excellent 115 in the opening game helped them reach a formidable total of 289 for 7 and again made a West Indies top score of 51 in the second match. Apart from him, none have been consistent – a major concern going into the third and final ODI as they look to redeem some pride by winning the game.
Despite having lost the series, Simmons said today’s game was still important for them and they would fight hard to conclude the series on a winning note.
Their bowling unit, despite consisting the likes of Sheldon Cottrel and Jason Holder has been ineffective to put pressure on the Sri Lankan batters.
It would be surprising if the West Indies can stop the Lankans from making it 3-0, something that the tourists desperately want to stop.