Batting Coach confident SL will not be intimidated by Proteas’ pace


Jon Lewis

Rex Clementine in Durham

A couple of months ago, South Africa’s quicks gave Sri Lankan batsmen a torrid time during the bilateral series between the countries. Sri Lanka were whitewashed 5-0. These teams will meet in a World Cup clash in Durham on Friday and Sri Lanka’s Batting Coach Jon Lewis is confident that his batsmen will not be intimidated by the quicks. One thing is that the Durham track will not have the pace of South Africa while there’s no Dale Steyn or Anrich Nortje while Lungi Ngidi has struggled with injuries.

All those are bowlers who clock 140kmph on average. However, the Sri Lankans have to still put up with Kagiso Rabada.

"Playing Steyn, Rabada, Ngidi and Nortje was quite tough for our blokes. Some of the pitches there in South Africa offered fast bowlers plenty with the new ball as well. The Durham pitch will not have much pace and that will help us a little bit. There is movement though," noted Lewis.

Movement off the pitch has been one of Sri Lanka’s Achilees’ heel too and the Proteas have plenty of seam options as they could chose from Andile Phelukwayo, Dwayne Pretorius and Chris Morris. The 1996 champions also have to deal with Imran Tahir, who has an excellent record against them averaging 15 whereas his career average is 24.

"He is obviously a class performer and we are going to recognize that he is a dangerous player. We need to have an idea against some of their stronger players like Imran," Lewis added.

The middle order struggle in the early part of the tournament not being able to bat out 50 overs but in their last game against England, the batters showed application.

"We are going into South Africa’s game where the top five guys have scored 40 plus in the last two innings. That’s a position of strength we haven’t had in this competition so far. Apart from Avishka Fernando, I don’t think anyone else found any fluency on that pitch. Kusal Mendis’ knock wasn’t that fluent but very valuable. The partnership he put on with Avishka and Angelo were crucial," noted Lewis, a former Head Coach of Durham.

"We have had two guys who have battled over 100 balls in the last two games and that’s a good indication as that’s something we have not been doing over the last year – to play 100 balls. It has been something that we have been asking for not contributions like just facing 40 or 50 balls. World Cup has shown that guys like Kane Williamson and Joe Root maybe not the quickest off the blocks but they catch up and that’s possibly a way to go about things."

With Avishka Fernando showing the ability to clear the boundary against a good England attack, Sri Lanka will be asking more from him at number three having brought him into the side at the expense of Lahiru Thirimanne. "He is an impressive young man. He has some real ability and he is exciting to watch. Even during that brief innings in South Africa, which was really tough for him - it was a baptism of fire for him. I know it wasn’t really his debut in South Africa but he had his moments."

Lewis was Durham’s Head Coach when Kumar Sangakkara was county’s overseas signing in 2014. "Sanga was brilliant. It was a short time and I wished it was longer. Every player in the dressing room felt the same way too. We talked a little bit of batting but I was learning much from him. He came here ahead of the Test series which was quite early season. It was tough against the red Dukes ball. He wanted to give himself a real chance to do well in the Test series and he also wanted to do well for Durham," Lewis explained. 

Lewis joined Sri Lanka after losing his job at Durham. In 2016 the county faced major difficulties as they went bankrupt and required a bailout package from England and Wales Cricket Board. The ECB doled out 3.8 million Sterling Pounds but punished the club with a 48 point penalty that saw them relegated to Division Two.

"It was a difficult time as the club had financial difficulties and the consequence of that was we got relegated. As a result, we lost five of our players to Surrey, Lancashire and Nottinghamshire. They were all good payers and they wanted to further their careers. No criticism there. Their departure affected the side. The hit they took in 2016 was massive but I am sure they will bounce back," Lewis commented.

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