Tharanga rises like a phoenix

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2017-02-12

Reading through the comments that appeared in the social media after the fourth ODI game despite the loss of Sri Lanka, was most encouraging and welcome. The insults, the harsh criticism seem to have evaporated and instead the team being hailed as heroes. The comments about Tharanga the skipper was the most noteworthy.

It was not so long ago that the fans were screaming for his blood and demanding him to be dropped. But what a turn around one game and one inning has done for Sri Lanka and Tharanga. In the minds of the fans there is fresh hope for the future and a possible a win over Australia in the coming T20 series though that can be a very tough call.

The turnaround in attitude was largely due to the way the Lankans played than the actual result. In reality it was another loss this time by forty runs though it wasn't humiliating for the tourists. They did run the hosts very closely and 4/300 in the 44th over, one would have thought there was an outside chance of winning as in modern day limited over cricket sixty seven runs off thirty six balls is very gettable if the batting side has two set batsman and wickets in hand. That was exactly the Sri Lankan situation though they crumbled from there. Oh for some more runs from Mendis at the top and Gunarathne at the end. What a turn around the world of cricket would have seen on that day. Whilst that's another story what we need to dwell on is the positives that the team brought to the game.

For starters the pitch looked perfect and the strong South African batting including De Villiers and the inform Faf Du Plessis were always a challenge and the need was to keep them to the lowest possible score.

Three hundred plus, despite Amla falling to Kumara looked possible and the way the South Africans constructed their innings one felt it was going to be even larger. The worst fears of the Lankans were confirmed when the final score of three hundred and sixty seven was achieved. But what was different in the Lankan set up this time was there attitude. It was a very confident beginning and the fighting spirit was quite visible, where they were willing to take on the might of the South African bowling.

Watching the bowlers at that stage it was clear that they appeared rattled and when Dickwella and Tharanga got 139 in the 17th over they were definitely confused. As for Tharanga, the under pressure batsman and skipper it was a magnificent effort.

One wonders what caused his transformation. A hundred off seventy three balls with nine fours and seven sixes is unheard when you talk of Upul Tharanga the batsman. When he opened with Jayasuriya in the past, he was more the supporting actor with Jayasuriya taking on the attacking role. This was vintage Tharanga and the batsman Sri Lanka needs at least in the shorter format. The opening stand brought back memories of old in the times of Kaluwitharana, Jayasuriya and more recently Dilshan.

Where Sri Lanka missed out was the lack of runs from the likes of Dananjaya de Silva whilst Mendis and Gunarathne both got starts which they failed to convert. Had the said duo stayed a bit longer the final result could have been much closer or who knows a win for Sri Lanka especially as the young Weerakkody too stepped in with a good hand.

Once again I am sure no one's complained of the result achieved. On a tour where the team has struggled very few people backed them to win anything though the T20 series was won. But what the fans and everyone else including the selectors wanted was for the players out there to compete. This they did in grand style in the fourth game. As for the positives Niroshan Dickwella has been and will remain the star of the show. He has opened and kept wickets and have given the Lankans the fighting spirit by taking the game to the opposing camp. What the entire country will now hope for is a good finish in Australia too. Looking forward to it with great expectations and hope!

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