SL fielding on focus as cricket returns to Suriyawewa


Rex Clementine reporting from Suriyawewa

Lasith Malinga during a practice session ahead of the third one-day international (ODI) against Zimbabwe at the Suriyawewa Mahinda Rajapakse International Cricket Stadium in Hambantota on July 5, 2017. LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI / AFP

The locals here at Hambantota will be excited as cricket returns to their village after a lapse of two years when Sri Lanka take on Zimbabwe in the third ODI of the series today. The remaining two games of the five match series also will take place here. There’s been little cricket of any form at Suriyawewa since President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s surprise defeat at the 2015 elections.

Yesterday, Sri Lanka were forced to bring in Nuwan Kulasekara and Lahiru Kumara as cover after fast bowler Suranga Lakmal was down with fever. Middle order bat Chamara Kapugedera is already in the squad as Lahiru Madusanka and Amila Aponso were axed after the first two games.

"We brought in two fast bowlers because we have enough options with regard to batters and spinners, but fast bowlers find it most difficult when they play back to back games. Suriyawewa is far off and instead of rushing in someone from Colombo, we thought better to have additional options with us," captain Angelo Mathews told journalists.

Teams have found the wind here at Suriyawewa too tough to handle. But since today’s game is a day match, teams shouldn’t find it too difficult.

Zimbabwe stunned Sri Lanka in the series opener as they chased down a target of 317 with six wickets to spare. It was the first time that any team had successfully chased more than 300 runs in Sri Lanka to win an ODI. Sri Lanka bounced back strongly to win the second ODI when they secured a seven wicket win with almost 20 overs to spare.

The Zimbabweans scored heavily in the first game using the sweep shot successfully, but it backfired in the second game as the Sri Lankans adjusted their lengths.

"If the wicket is not conducive for sweep you have to come up with other options. Definitely sweep shot is an option for us when we tour this part of the world. We will continue to do that, but if we see the wicket as turning a bit and bounce is variable then we will have to play down the ground a lot more," Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer told journalists.

The hosts, however, will not take anything lightly after a stunning performance by the tourists in the first game.

There will be lot of focus on the team’s fielding after the Sri Lankans dropped as many as six catches in the last two games. Lasith Malinga and Danushka Gunatilleke particularly will be under fire with the former having dropped three catches in the last four games and the latter dropping four catches in his last four games.

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