Upbeat Lankans relishing easy ride
PIETERMARITZBURG, South Africa, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Upbeat Sri Lanka can afford to throttle back in their next three matches before facing West Indies and South Africa to complete the World Cups first phase.
The 1996 world champions launched their Group B campaign with a comprehensive 47-run win over New Zealand and can now feast on the relatively easy pickings of Bangladesh, Canada and Kenya.
Sri Lanka play Bangladesh at the Pietermaritzburg Oval on Friday and, having beaten them by five wickets, eight wickets and 58 runs in their last three meetings, would expect to achieve a similar result.
"The first match was a very important game for both sides, it was almost a double-pointer," said Sri Lanka coach Dav Whatmore, after his teams impressive display against New Zealand in their tournament opener.
"Now it gives us a real chance to play a few more easier matches before we strike teams like the West Indies (in Cape Town on February 28)."
Sri Lankas opening win has left them in a strong position to reach the Super Six stage, with New Zealand, one of their main rivals, planning to forfeit their match against Kenya in Nairobi because of security fears.
The Sri Lankans would expect to have a maximum 16 points in the bag by the time they take on West Indies at Newlands, which would virtually guarantee them a place in the next phase.
Whatmore is delighted Sri Lanka appear to have rediscovered their form after a poor recent tour of Australia, which included the embarrassment of being bowled out for 65 by Australia A.
The team had gone to South Africa and then Australia to practise on harder and bouncier pitches but, while their results were generally poor, the Australia A performance touched a raw nerve.
"We reached our depths of despair when we got bowled out for 65 that day," Whatmore said.
"But, from then on, the whole squad agreed that, whether or not we go down, we just give it our full commitment and 100 per cent."
Test newcomers Bangladesh are unlikely to offer Sri Lanka much resistance, although they will be determined to put on a reasonable showing after their humiliating defeat by Canada on Tuesday.
The Bangladeshis, the 10th and most recent addition to the test-playing nations, crashed to a 60-run loss to the Canadians, with dreadlocked plumber Austin Codrington taking five for 27.
"We had to win against lightweights like Canada and Kenya because everybody back home expects it," said Bangladesh captain Khaled Mashud.
"We needed to get off to a positive start in this tournament, but we didnt. All we can now do is regroup and try to do a lot better."
Hopeful Bangladesh may be but it is difficult to imagine them doing much on Friday to prevent the high-riding Sri Lankans from securing their second straight win.
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