Kusal Perera © Getty Images
Kusal Perera is known for his ability to hit the ball hard  © Getty Images

Having been forced to play a five-match series against a usual opponent, Sri Lanka have no option but to look forward to the series and iron out flaws in the team combination. While the Lankans have a balanced side, the performance of the openers hasn’t been up to the mark. Abhijit Banare analyses Lanka’s opening performance in one-Day Internationals (ODI) this year.

A brief look at Sri Lanka’s performance indicates that this has been a successful year for them with just five of the 20 matches ending in losses. Their performances have been clinical; they won the Asia Cup 2014, beat England in England and Pakistan in UAE, but lost to South Africa at home. In the run up to the ICC World Cup 2015 – which is currently just over three months away – Sri Lanka have sorted out almost all of their problems. Ahead of the series against India, they will get an opportunity to test one area which hasn’t matched up to the overall team performance this year. The openers have averaged 29 during this phase.

M

W

L

Ave opening stand

20

15

5

29

In these 20 matches, the Lankans have used four openers: Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kusal Perera, Lahiru Thirimanne and Upul Tharanga. The individual performances below show that Dilshan and Perera have been around for most of the matches. Dilshan, the most experienced one of the lot — leads the run-charts. His experience makes him an integral part of the ICC World Cup 2015. Thirimanne had an impressive Asia Cup with two centuries, but from thereon he did not get too many chances, and has been dropped from the team for the series against India.

Below is the individual performance of the four openers used by Sri Lanka this year:

Batsman

M

R

Hs

Ave

50s

100s

Tillakaratne Dilshan

13

458

88

38.16

4

0

Kusal Perera

14

403

106

28.78

1

1

Lahiru Thirimanne

9

314

102

34.88

0

2

Upul Tharanga

4

83

27

20.75

0

0

While the above numbers indicate that Thirimanne goes along well with Dilshan, the opening partnerships below indicate that the Dilshan-Perera opening pair isn’t bad either. When it is Dilshan and Perera, the run-rate tends to be quite high, thanks to the aggressive style of both batsmen.

Below is the break-up of opening partnerships for Sri Lanka among these four players:

Batsman 1

Batsman 2

M

R

Hs

Ave.

RR

Series

Tillakaratne Dilshan

Kusal Perera

7

245

57

35

6.9

Bangladesh (2), England (2), South Africa (3)

Kusal Perera

Lahiru Thirimanne

6

222

80

37

4.33

Asia Cup (5), Bangladesh (1)

Tillakaratne Dilshan

Upul Tharanga

3

76

46

25.33

5.7

Pakistan

Tillakaratne Dilshan

Lahiru Thirimanne

3

37

33

12.33

2.88

England

Kusal Perera

Upul Tharanga

1

0

0

0

0

Ireland

Tharanga’s impressive start to the tour: During the warm-up match, the Lankans had requested to be allowed to use all their players. In the chase of 382, it was Perera and Tharanga who came out to bat. Perera displayed his trademark style, getting off the mark with a boundary only to fall on the last ball of the first over.

However, Tharanga was quite impressive. Till a few months ago, he was trying to regain his spot through the A side, but in the tour match Tharanga played fluent strokes through the covers all through his innings. He was the only one who looked composed at the crease and never appeared in any discomfort against any bowler. While Perera gives the edge of brisk starts, Tharanga gives the sedate start mixed with caution and aggression. It’s an area which will have to succeed in the next 19 ODIs.

Lanka have more or less all their bases covered, with Nos. 3, 4, 5, being occupied by Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, and Angelo Mathews respectively. They even have their bowling attack in place with Lasith Malinga — currently not in the squad and in the process of regaining fitness — and Nuwan Kulasekara heading the pace department and Rangana Herath and Ajantha Mendis making up the spin reserves. It’s the No. 7 spot which is a bit of bother too, but they have multiple options to try and test that area such as Chaturanga de Silva, Ashan Priyanjan and others.

But in a big tournament like the World Cup, nothing can be more concerning than an unsettled opening pair. On the flat decks in this series, Tharanga and Perera have a good opportunity to prove their value against India before heading back home and then to New Zealand.

Complete coverage of Sri Lanka tour of India 2014

(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on @AbhijitVirgo)