HOBART: Sri Lanka will look to tie up some loose ends ahead of the World Cup quarter-finals when the former champions take on winless minnows Scotland in their last group match in Hobart on Wednesday.
The Islanders, who have won three of their five matches, will likely take third place in Pool A behind co-hosts New Zealand and Australia should they win at the at the Bellerive Oval.
Angelo Mathews’ side return to action just three days after going down to Australia by 64 runs in Sydney despite a heroic run chase led by remarkable veteran Kumar Sangakkara.
The 37-year-old left-hander smashed 104 to become the only batsman to score three successive centuries in a World Cup and is the leading run-scorer in this edition with 372 runs at an average of 124.
Opener Tillakaratne Dilshan, 38, is fifth in the list with 291 runs, but former skipper Mahela Jayawardene’s lean patch on either side of a match-winning century against Afghanistan will be worrying.
Jayawardene, 37, fell for zero in the tournament opener against New Zealand, did not get to bat against Bangladesh and England, before being run out for 19 against Australia.
Sri Lanka will need the three senior pros to fire if they are to repeat their 1996 triumph after losing the last two World Cup finals in 2007 and 2011.
The batsmen have so far made up for a wayward bowling attack which has leaked runs in the final overs to allow rivals to plunder big totals.
New Zealand took 134 runs from the last 14 overs, England garnered 148 from 15 and Australia smashed 200 in the last 16 overs.
“We have got to improve our bowling and fielding,” said Mathews. “If we can keep the opposition to 300, we can chase it down.”
Sri Lanka, who have already seen all-rounder Jeevan Mendis and batsman Dimuth Karunaratne depart from the tournament due to injuries, suffered another blow on Tuesday when Dinesh Chandimal was ruled out with a hamstring injury.
Chandimal retired hurt after making a 24-ball 52 against Australia and has been replaced by left-hand batsman Kusal Perera, who has played 41 one-day internationals and scored 839 runs with one century.
With a week to go before the quarter-finals, Sri Lanka may look to rest tired limbs and test their bench strength against Scotland, who are lying at the bottom of the group with five defeats from as many matches.
Sri Lanka have played the non-Test side just once in a one-day international, winning easily by 183 runs in Edinburgh in July 2011, and another one-sided game appears likely.
Statistics reveal the wide gulf between the two sides.
The combined ODI appearance total of the entire Scotland squad is 332 — 114 fewer matches than Jayawardene’s 446 ODIS, 70 below Sangakkara’s 402 and just 20 more than Dilshan’s 312.
Scotland have yet to win a match in three World Cups, and with the International Cricket Council planning to reduce the number of teams involved from 14 to 10 in 2019, Wednesday’s fixture could be their last in the showpiece event. AFP