Sri Lanka’s batsmen must show more patience under pressure in Tuesday’s “must-win” encounter against World Cup dark horses Afghanistan to put their crushing opening-round defeat behind them, pacer Lasith Malinga said on Monday.
New Zealand thumped Sri Lanka without losing a single wicket in Cardiff on Saturday to begin their campaign in style after seam bowlers Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson skittled them out for 136.
Skipper Dimuth Karunaratne contributed an unbeaten 52 in that total as the Sri Lankan top-order’s vulnerability in bowler-friendly conditions was exposed and Malinga said that a similar performance against Afghanistan would cost them dear.
“Patience is very important. We know these conditions, we can have someone get 60-70 runs and still the ball can move. Whoever the batsman is, he has to finish the game,” Malinga told a news conference at the same venue.
“I feel players need to get confidence… we need to get mentally tough. The pressure is with us, yes, but we have to play free and do our best.
“At the moment we want to be concerned with our own skill and how we’re going to play. (It is) a must-win game tomorrow. We’ll try our best… in accuracy and tactically, everything hopefully will be there tomorrow.”
Afghanistan fared only slightly better against defending champions Australia in their opener, losing by seven wickets, but Malinga is not taking them lightly.
“I think they have experienced players because most of them play in franchise cricket. They know how to accelerate and they have confidence,” he added.
“The important thing is handling pressure… that’s the big challenge for us.”
Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib, meanwhile, said his team were targeting a morale-boosting victory against the former champions to get back on track.
“We have the opportunity to do well against them. I hope if we play 50 overs, batting, then definitely we can beat them,” he said.
“If we play 50 overs, maybe (it will be) difficult for them… I saw the Sri Lankans play and they’ve lost a few games in the last two years… they’re struggling in one-day matches.”
Rain may help Afghanistan
Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib has played down the weather threat ahead of their World Cup match against Sri Lanka, saying a rain-shortened game would suit his aggressive side.
Forecasts predict persistent rain in Cardiff, which could play havoc with Afghanistan’s bid to get their first win in this year’s tournament.
Naib’s team were given a harsh lesson by holders Australia, who cruised to a seven-wicket win in the opening game for both teams in Bristol on Saturday.
But Naib believes his team have a better chance of success against Sri Lanka, whom they beat by 91 runs in last year’s Asia Cup in the United Arab Emirates, if the contest is reduced from the scheduled 50 overs-per-side due to the weather.
Asked on Monday if he was worried about rain derailing Afghanistan’s hopes, a relaxed Naib told reporters: “It was also predicted for today, but it didn’t rain so much.
“Tomorrow we just see what’s the weather. I think maybe the weather will be the same. So if we can reduce the overs it will be much better for us.”
Despite the defeat against Australia, Naib says Afghanistan were encouraged by parts of their performance and he hopes to build on that in the Sri Lanka match.
“We’ve got to be positive. If you look, we missed out on 12 overs in the previous game, yet we scored 200-plus,” Naib said.
“If you have wickets in hand, so maybe the score is 300-plus something.”
Sri Lanka were dismissed for a paltry 136 by New Zealand in their first World Cup match in Cardiff and Naib plans to prey on those batting weaknesses.
“I saw the Sri Lankans play on TV. They lost a few games in the last two years and they’re struggling in one-day matches,” he said.
“Yeah, we have the opportunity to do well against them,” added the skipper, whose team lost to Sri Lanka at the 2015 World Cup.
“But they are also a good team and we cannot it take easy. We can try to score big. If we play 50 overs maybe it will be difficult for them.”
Naib also declared pace bowler Hamid Hassan fit to face Sri Lanka.
“Hassan was hit by the ball (in the last game) but he’s feeling well,” he said