Thursday, 13 June 2013

A tale of two unfinishers

Unfinishers. I don't think that's even a word. But I'm going to use it. And define it to be the opposite of a "Finisher". A sort of batsman who gets runs in the middle during a chase, but falls short of the target towards the end. Or plays a blinding cameo, and gets out before he could hit the winning runs. An opposite to the likes of M.S Dhoni or Michael Bevan. Comparable to Sachin Tendulkar, or Jaques Kallis. Or Kumar Sangakkara. and Nuwan Kulasekara.

Prior to this game, Sanga had scored 14 ODI centuries in 300+ ODIs. Out of which 6 had resulted in losses. Almost 50% of the time when Sanga scored a hundred, Sri Lanka had lost. A staggering conversion, compared to Mahela, who has scored 15 ODI centuries of which Sri Lanka have only lost ONE game. We all know what that game was. On top of that, out of 14, Sanga had only scored 3 during chases. Out of that three, Sri Lanka had lost 2. The only time they won, Sanga wasn't there to finish it off either. Sachithra Senanayake had to come in the last over, block the first ball, and hit the next one, the penultimate ball of the match, for a towering six over cow-corner to win the game in Johannesburg.

Meaning tonight, was the first time Sanga had experienced the joy of getting a century and hitting the winning runs for Sri Lanka, in his illustrious 13 year old One Day career. The first time he had guided a chase and watched Sri Lanka get over the line. He had a smile on his face, at the end of it all. A calm, satisfying one. The sort of smile that tells you how badly he needed that in his list of accolades. He had finally, before he retired, done something to take that "selfish and unlucky" tag off his back.

Kulasekara on the other hand, was quite the opposite. He was jubilant and emotional. Over the moon. His happiness was not one of relief. It was one of sheer joy. Childish and genuine. Much like the cricketer he is. For him it was not a case of falling short every time he tried. It was a matter of trying and somehow pulling it off. Kula always gives it his all. When all hope seems lost, he would come out and blast a few around the park, and spark a bit of energy in the fans. But until tonight, he had never made a big score in a chase and saw the team to a victory. A 50 in a big chase against New Zealand in the last edition of the champions trophy in 2009, another at one of the CB series finals against Australia in 2012, again chasing a big total, and also during that T20 world cup final against West Indies in 2012 had all resulted in losses. Kula had tried his best, but fallen short. But not tonight.

The two unfinishers had got together, put on a partnership in excess of 100, and stayed not out till the game was finished. They had come through victorious and alive. Finally, they had cracked the code. And Sri Lanka had moved up and moved forward. They had done it. Against all odds.

A smile of joy and a sigh of relief.
The tale of two determined workhorses; The Unfinishers
Sanga and Kula's performance would have hidden the short comings of Sri Lanka's display in the field, but its not going to stop me from ranting about it. Dilshan dropped three. One was a sitter. Sanga dropped a sitter as well. Misfields all round. Over throws too. But that was the sort of day Sri Lanka had in the field. An off day. It didn't look like it was a habit.

What was a habit though, was the lack of intelligent field placing and bowlers sticking to that field. Fields that were set reminded me of the interval soft ball games we used to play in the 6th grade. The captain did not know how to set a field, so everyone would stand where ever they felt like. The bowler wasn't told to bowl at a certain area, let alone knew an idea of what field was set for him. The batsman's weaknesses, the bowler's strengths and the situation of the game were regardless. Stand where ever you like, catch the ball if it comes to you, and bowl where ever you think is smart.

Sri Lanka's display wasn't as bad as ours in school, but it wasn't far from it either. And some serious changes will need to be made to combat them. Starting with playing an extra spinner. And setting more attacking fields. And bowlers sticking to those fields.

A must win game against Australia looms in the vicinity. Monday will be a Quarter Final. Win and go to the semis, lose and get kicked out. That Net Run Rate isn't getting any better if we lose anyway.

A win is a win though. Sri Lanka had to win 4 games to win the tournament without losing a single one. They are a quarter of the way through. But three such games still remain. No matter how impressive and convincing that win was, it still doesn't reassure the fact that we have what it takes to go all the way. But before thinking of going all the way, we need to get through Australia.

More on that on my next post.
Until then;


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