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11 February 201508:10

Sri Lanka ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Tournament Preview & Guide

Blessed with a heady mix of experience and youth Sri Lanka is among the top sides coming into the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena will join hands for the last time to plot Sri Lanka’s World Cup campaign. Can Sri Lanka ensure a fairytale swansong for the duo?

Sri Lanka ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Tournament Preview & Guide - Cricket News

Once Sri Lanka finds its rhythm and gets on a roll, it becomes almost unstoppable.

A team that’s high on talent and flair, Sri Lanka has been among the more consistent sides in ICC events over the past two decades. Opponents can take the side lightly at their own peril, as a cursory look at Sri Lanka’s record since 1996 – three finals appearances with one champion’s medal coupled with one semi-final appearance – shows.

Sri Lanka has mastered the art of fully exploiting its collective abilities in major tournaments. Once the side finds its rhythm and gets on a roll, it becomes almost unstoppable.

"We may not have won those two tournaments, but reaching two successive finals showed we played consistently well. Hopefully we can cross the line this time."

Mahela Jayawardena - On the 2007 and 2011 tournaments.
Sri Lanka will face New Zealand in the first match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, in what will be its first big challenge. If it gets out unscathed from that clash in Christchurch, it will be hard to stop.

Part of the tournament since its inception in 1975, Sri Lanka had a string of first-round exits until a stirring coming-of-age run in 1996 that crowned the side world champions.

Since then, it reached the semi-finals in 2003 and was the losing finalist in both 2007 and 2011. Sri Lanka has proved time and time again that it is a brilliant side with a knack for navigating through to the knockout rounds.

Pool: Sri Lanka is drawn in Pool A, along with Australia, England, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Afghanistan and Scotland.

Captain: Angelo Mathews

Coach: Marvan Atapattu

The team boasts immense World Cup experience in Mahela Jayawardena, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan, who were pivotal in Sri Lanka's journey to the World Cup final against India in 2011. Jayawardena is appearing in his fifth World Cup, while Sangakkara has featured in the past three editions, and they will hope to end their One-Day International careers with the trophy that has so far proved to be elusive.

Jayawardena was captain when Sri Lanka reached the final of the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, where it came second to Australia and Adam Gilchrist.

Four years later in India, Sangakkara was at the helm in the title clash when India inflicted a six-wicket defeat despite a magnificent 103 off 88 balls by Jayawardena.

Alongside Lahiru Thirimanne, the vice-captain, Dimuth Karunaratne and Dinesh Chandimal, the experienced trio form the core specialist batting group, while Mathews, Thisara Perera and Jeevan Mendis add another dimension to the mix with their all-round abilities, while Lasith Malinga and Rangana Herath will spearhead the bowling.

Sri Lanka’s batting is its strength. Jayawardena and Sangakkara are looking for a perfect swansong, while Dilshan is peaking at the right time. Then there is Mathews (1244 runs), the captain, who along with Sangakkara (1256 runs) finished as the best ODI batsmen of 2014, and will provide some late thrust to Sri Lanka’s innings.

Mathews, in fact, is Sri Lanka’s lynchpin and stands out even amongst the stalwarts. He has grown into his role as one of the batting mainstays, one of the key bowlers and as a leader.

Mathews can also bank on considerable depth in the squad. The presence of bowling all-rounders such as Mendis, Perera and Nuwan Kulasekara allows for a good mix and ability to rotate bowlers in the middle overs.

The leader of the attack will be Malinga, whose abilities as a limited-overs bowler are second to none, with Herathable to control things in the middle overs.

Recent Form:
Sri Lanka’s recent limited-overs form has been mixed. It was outclassed 5-0 by India in India but bounced back to defeat England 5-2 in a seven-match ODI series, before a 2-4 loss against a confident New Zealand side going into the World Cup.

There were encouraging signs during the New Zealand series, with a number of players finding form in the local conditions.

Star Player: Lasith Malinga
One of the most consistent and economical bowlers in limited-overs cricket, Malinga’s round-arm action generates genuine pace, and unsettles batsmen who struggle to pick up the ball's trajectory.

Known for his ability to strike regularly, Malinga is the only bowler in the world to have two World Cup hat-tricks, one in 2007 against South Africa and one in 2011 against Kenya.

He is also the only bowler with three hat-tricks in ODIs. During the hat-trick against South Africa in 2007, Malinga became the only player to have taken four wickets in four consecutive balls in any form of international cricket.

Malinga's ability to send in toe-crushing yorkers at the deathputs the onus on the opposition batsmen to score against the odds when they are hitting out, but it’s often Malinga who comes out on top in the contest. With 271 wickets at 27.21 and an economy rate of 5.21 in 177 ODIs, Malinga is clearly the ace in the pack for Sri Lanka in 2015 World Cup.

One to Watch: Lahiru Thirimane
A solid left-hand batsman known for his technical expertise, Thirimanne’s classical batting style is reminiscent of Sangakkara. Among those who follow Sri Lanka cricket closely, Thirimanne is looked at as one of the future batting mainstays, and is among the candidates to lead the next generation of batsmen.

His finest moment in ODIs came as recently as March 2014, when he guided Sri Lanka to its fifth Asia Cup title with a classical century against a potent Pakistan bowling attack.

Fun Facts:
Sri Lanka won more ODIs (20 out of 32) than any other team in 2014, including the Asia Cup title.

Kumar Sangakkara– He recently reached 473 dismissals mark - a world record for the most dismissals by a wicketkeeper in ODIs.

Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan – The pair are ranked fourth and fifth in the ICC Rankings for ODI batsmen.

Kumar Sangakkara (13693 runs) and Mahela Jayawardena (12525 runs) – The prolific batsmen enter the World Cup as the leading run-getters in ODIs among those still playing.

Key Match: Australia v Sri Lanka, March 8, Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
Both Sri Lanka and Australia will have one eye on the quarter-final when they meet at thehistoric Sydney Cricket Ground in this day-night encounter. For both sides this will be the last league encounter against a fellow Test playing nation, and the result could be instrumental in deciding what path each will follow if they qualify for the knockouts.

These sides have met nine times across six editions of the World Cup, with their 2011 encounter washed out when the match was intriguingly poised, with Sri Lanka 146 for 3 in 32.5 overs.

Sri Lanka has won two of the other eight encounters. While the first was on account of a walkover from Australia in 1996, the second –a seven-wicket win - came in the final in Lahore in the same edition.

However, Australia eventually got its revenge in 2007 with a 53-run victory in the final in Bridgetown.

Scott Styris’s Prediction:Sri Lanka: Semi-Final
“Sri Lanka have a very dominant recent history at World Cups and I'm backing this ability to perform under pressure. They will need to rely on the success of five players if they're to reach the semis. Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Dilshan, Mathews and Malinga are all World Class. A semi Final appearance would signify a terrific tournament.”

“In Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan we have senior players determined to go out on a high and players who have the same quality and command the same respect as men like Arjuna and Aravinda did in 1996.When you win a World Cup you do it for your country, for your team-mates and then for yourself, in that order. I have faith this group of players can achieve the dream again and I hope they have that faith too.” - Muttiah Muralitharan

Angelo Mathews (capt), Lahiru Thirimanne (vice-capt), Dimuth Karunaratne, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Mahela Jayawardene, Dinesh Chandimal, Thisara Perera, Jeevan Mendis, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Dhammika Prasad, Nuwan Kulasekara, Rangana Herath, Sachithra Senanayake.

February 14: v New Zealand, Hagley Oval, Christchurch
February 22: v Afghanistan, University Oval, Dunedin
February 26: v Bangladesh, MCG, Melbourne
March 1: v England, Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington
March 8: v Australia, SCG, Sydney
March 11: v Scotland, Bellerive Oval, Hobart