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By Shrikant Shankar
Sri Lanka have had a mixed 2013. Ever since the 2011 World Cup final, they have been a team in transition. They still rely heavily on players like Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan and they have indicated on numerous occasions that the ICC World Cup 2015 will probably be their last sojourn for Sri Lanka. But there is some promise in players like Kusal Perera and new captain Angelo Mathews as well.
The year began with a Test loss at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) against Australia. They drew the five-match One-Day International (ODI) series 2-2 and then beat Australia 2-0 in the Twenty20 (T20) series. There was disappointment, as they drew a three-match ODI series with Bangladesh 1-1 at home. They were seen as one of the favourites to win the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 in England.
They lost the first match against New Zealand, but came back strongly to beat hosts, England. Sangakkara’s unbeaten 134 in London at The Oval was as good a batting performance as any in 2013. They then beat Australia to enter the semi-finals. Here they were completely outplayed by eventual champions, India. Overall, it was not a poor showing, but the players themselves would have been feeling that they could have gone one step further.
Sri Lanka soon travelled to the Caribbean to play an ODI tri-series against West Indies and India. They reversed a trend of losing to India by winning by a massive margin of 161 runs at Jamaica on July 2. Upul Tharanga starred with an unbeaten 174 in that match. They qualified for the final, all seemed perfect for them to win against India at Port of Spain on July 11. With 15 runs to win off one over for India and with only one wicket in hand, Sri Lanka seemed like the favourites to win. But MS Dhoni finished it off in only four deliveries and that capped off a disappointing first part of the year for the team from Sri Lanka.
They came back strongly in an ODI series at home against South Africa. They won the five-match series 4-1 and the victories were comprehensive. They lost the subsequent T20 series 2-1, but overall it was a fine performance against a strong team. Sri Lanka then drew a three-match ODI series against New Zealand 1-1 again at home and won the two-match T20 series 1-0.
Then started a marathon series against Pakistan in the middle-east. The two-match T20 series was drawn 1-1. Sri Lanka lost the five-match ODI series 3-2. But they won the last match to finish off the year with a victory. A three-match Test series has only begun and will finish in 2014.
Kusal Perera’s 84 off 59 in that T20 match against Pakistan was another highlight for Sri Lanka. Another significant event for Sri Lankan cricket was the retirement of Thilan Samaraweera. He has been a wonderful servant to Sri Lankan cricket and his last match was against Australia in the first match of the year in Sydney. His career batting numbers are a dream to have for any. Samaraweera will be missed and Sri Lankan cricket needs players like him more than ever.
Their status in the ODI game and T20s is still very good, but as a Test nation, they have struggled. Including the ongoing Test match against Pakistan at Abu Dhabi, Sri Lanka have only played four Tests. That showcases where they stand in the five-day format.
(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)
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