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By Devarchit Varma
Sri Lanka’s cricketers are a happy lot. Their long stint away from home has finally come to an end and they are heading home with lots of silverware. In the three months they had spent in Bangladesh, they won the two-match Test series 1-0, won the three-match One-Day International (ODI) series 3-0, a two-match T20 series 2-0, then the Asia Cup 2014 and the immensely successful tour is ended with a win in the ICC World T20 2014 tournament.
Sri Lanka has won everything that came their way, and the one-off loss to England in the group round match of the ICC World T20 2014 was the only blot in their nearly-perfect run during the tour of Bangladesh in 2013-14 season.
Sri Lanka may have lost two of their stalwarts — Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene retiring from the T20 format — but the overall improvement that the island nation has shown is a good sign for them going ahead.
Sri Lanka had arrived in Bangladesh towards the end of January for a full tour. They had started off with an emphatic win by an innings and 248 runs against Bangladesh in the first Test at Mirpur. Jayawardene had slammed a double-hundred and centuries by Kaushal Silva and Kithuruwan Vithanage helped their side to slam the opponents by a huge margin. The second Test had ended in a draw.
The Test series was followed by two-match T20I series and Sri Lanka had managed to go past the finish line in both the games by close margins. While they had won the first match by a narrow margin of two runs, the second and the final one was won by three wickets. Nevertheless, the series provided Sri Lanka an ideal momentum in the limited-overs formats wherein they attained a good flow and went on to win everything that came their way.
The three-match ODI series began on an exciting note as Bangladesh had restricted Sri Lanka to a modest total of 180. It was largely due to Thisara Perera’s 57-ball 80 not out that Sri Lanka managed to post a fighting total as they had suffered a batting collapse. Perera had slammed six sixes and four boundaries to lead his side’s revival. When Bangladesh had come out to bat, Sri Lanka bowlers Angelo Mathews and Sachithra Senanayake took the responsibility with the ball and guided their side to a 12-run win. The remaining two matches of the series were not as tough as the first one for the Lankans as Kumar Sangakkara and Kusal Perera scored centuries in the second and the third ODIs respectively.
The Lankans remained unbeaten in the Asia Cup 2014 and went on to win the tournament. They had registered a narrow 12-run win against Pakistan in the opening match of the tournament and beat India by two wickets in their next game. Against a threatening Afghanistan they registered a comfortable 129-run win and in the tournament final, Pakistan did not pose much threat as they chased down a tricky 261-run target with 22 balls to spare.
The wins on the tour had made Sri Lanka red-hot favourites for the ICC World T20 2014. They were placed in a tricky group that had the likes of South Africa, England, Netherlands and New Zealand. An on-song Sri Lanka had no qualms in registering wins against their dangerous opponents. However, there was a glitch in the game against England as Alex Hales and Eoin Morgan found the rhythm against the Lankans and handed them their first and the only loss on the tour.
The Lankans registered a win over the West Indies in the semi-final and qualified for an ICC tournament’s final yet again. But the disappointments of the previous times and the nervousness would have easily got better of them had they not adopted a professional approach in the final against India. They stifled the star-studded Indian batting line-up, not allowing them enough room and opportunities and restricted them to 130 for four despite Virat Kohli’s brilliant 77.
Kumar Sangakkara, the architect of Sri Lanka’s six-wicket win with 52 not out said after the game that the team carried him throughout the tournament and he had to do something to leave on a high. Sri Lanka not only dashed India’s hopes to win their third ICC trophy which they do not have, but they also put behind the disappointment for years.
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