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Rajapaksa keen for Sri Lanka improvements despite big win

Bhanuka Rajapaksa (R) plays a shot as Namibia's wicketkeeper Zane Green watches during the ICC mens Twenty20 World Cup cricket match between Namibia and Sri Lanka at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on October 18, 2021.
Bhanuka Rajapaksa believes the impressive work of Sri Lanka’s front-line bowlers made life easy for their batters in the convincing opening win over Namibia but still wants to see improvements from the team.

Bhanuka Rajapaksa believes the impressive work of Sri Lanka’s front-line bowlers made life easy for their batters in the convincing opening win over Namibia but still wants to see improvements from the team.

Bowling first in Abu Dhabi, Sri Lanka’s trio of seamers brilliantly restricted Namibia –­ conceding just 45 runs from their 11.3 overs and taking four wickets, to complement the combined five-wicket haul of spinners Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana.

It meant the Eagles were all out for just 96 and that a subsequent top-order wobble from Sri Lanka went unpunished, as they turned the potentially precarious position of 26/3 into a seven-wicket victory with 39 balls remaining.

Rajapaksa’s 42 not out and Avishka Fernando’s unbeaten 30 for a fourth-wicket stand of 74 saw them comfortably home but despite getting their ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 campaign off to a winning start, Rajapaksa is targeting a more complete display against Ireland on Wednesday.

“It’s always a learning curve for any team and any individual,” he said. “We can’t be happy with all of the performance because there are many parts we need to improve.

“But we can be happy about the performance of the front-line bowlers because they set the tone for us and it made it much easier for us batters.

“We’ve been struggling in the powerplay to get runs and not lose wickets, so there’s a bit of a concern when it comes to the top-order batters ­– they are struggling to get runs and it is not in our favour at the minute.

“Going forward we are looking to correct the mistakes from past games. It was a bad day for the top order but we’ll take it in a positive way and going forward, we’ll do the right things.”

Opening batters Pathum Nissanka and Kusal Perera both fell cheaply, while No.3 Dinesh Chandimal was dismissed for five.

But the decision to bowl first paid dividends as the Namibia total was still low enough to comfortably hunt down despite the early struggles and Rajapaksa admits winning the toss was key.

“One of the reasons we wanted to bowl first is that we knew there would be some dew as the evening went on,” he added.

“The warm-up games we played in Oman, the dew factor was large and the bowlers couldn’t grip the ball when they were bowling second. We knew the conditions would be similar here in Abu Dhabi.

“Going forward, the toss will be important but we can’t always rely on it. We need to practice with a wet ball in the nets. It could be a challenge for us but the boys are ready for it.”

There were plenty of promising signs for Namibia, as Craig Williams and Gerhard Erasmus put on a partnership of 39 for the third wicket, albeit from 40 balls, and then their bowling attack caused the Sri Lanka top order some problems.

The 37-year-old Williams top scored with 29 but as they prepare for a crunch clash with Netherlands on Wednesday, he knows they must up their game to leave with a victory that would keep their hopes of qualifying for the Super 12s alive.

“It’s quite disappointing because we’ve trained for the last two years and we knew what was coming,” he said of the defeat. “On the night, our execution was quite poor.

“The Sri Lankan bowling attack is well-oiled. They didn’t give us much to hit – they got the right height on their bouncers and executed it really well.

“The batting unit needs to pull up its socks and get something better on the board for the bowlers to defend.

“We still have high spirits though and we walked off the field with smiles on our faces. We knew Sri Lanka would be tough and we have to put this behind us as quickly as possible.

“We back ourselves against Ireland and the Netherlands and let’s see where those games take us.”

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