Is Sri Lanka relying too much on top three?

Three of the top four run-scorers in the World Cup are Sri Lankans who have amassed more than 1,200 runs between them over seven games — all but one played at home on Sri Lankan wickets.

Updated: March 30, 2011 14:07 IST
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Colombo: Three of the top four run-scorers in the World Cup are Sri Lankans who have amassed more than 1,200 runs between them over seven games — all but one played at home on Sri Lankan wickets.

The real test of Sri Lanka's world-beating credentials will come in Mumbai on Saturday when their marauding batsmen face a tough bowling attack on an unfamiliar wicket.

Tillakaratne Dilshan (467), captain Kumar Sangakkara (417) and Upul Tharanga (393) — with England's Jonathan Trott — lead the pack of World Cup batsmen ahead of the highly anticipated semifinal between archrivals Pakistan and India which will decide Sri Lanka's opponent in the final.

Has the 1996 World Cup winner relied too much on the top three batsmen to come good everytime?

The statistics show that the remaining batsmen have averaged a total of 72 runs between them over the World Cup, although admittedly they have not been needed that often.

Playing at home is of course an advantage and seven home games in a World Cup has put Sri Lanka firmly in a comfort zone.

Sri Lanka's team has traveled just once outside their territory since the World Cup began on Feb. 19 when it defeated New Zealand in a group game at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium — venue for Saturday's finale.

Sangakkara's batsmen have so far stuttered just once on the way to the final. And it happened against the only quality bowling they had faced in the tournament thus far when Pakistan successfully defended a total of 277-7 in group game.

Sri Lanka's victories in the knockout matches came against England and New Zealand — teams missing their frontline bowlers due to injuries.

There were some nervy moments on Saturday when New Zealand took four wickets in the space of 25 runs, but the lack of quality bowling denied the Kiwis their first ever chance to qualify for the World Cup final.

Mahela Jayawardene started the tournament by racking up Sri Lanka's fastest ever century in the World Cup when he made 100 off 80 balls against Canada. However, in the remaining five innings Jayawardene could only make a further 101.

"Everyone talks when a batsman fails," Sangakkara said after five-wicket win over New Zealand in the semifinal. "The questions are natural, is he okay? is he out of form? are you worried? it happens in cricket."

But the Sri Lankan captain supported Jayawardene — a veteran of 340 ODIs.

"Mahela is the kind of a player who can turn up and destroy any side, there's no doubt about it," he said.

Sangakkara was well aware of the fact that either of his two opponents in the final could be dangerous and has the ability to challenge the strong Sri Lankan batting lineup.

"We've got to come off that high (semifinal win) very, very soon," he said. "By the time we get on that plane we've got to understand what lies ahead of us...that is now the only game that counts, not this one, not the one before."

Sangakkara anchored the innings with a brilliant 111 against New Zealand at Mumbai, but was not sure what type of wicket he would be getting for Saturday's final.

"It's hard to say," he said. "The wicket against New Zealand was unbelievable, it had pace and bounce, it had movement not much turn at all, it was good to bat on once you saw the new ball off."

"But I am not sure whether we will get the similar wicket again when we face the opposition on Saturday."

Sri Lanka must be hoping its champion off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan stays fit for another 100 overs before hanging up his boots in international cricket on Saturday.

Muralitharan, who completed 800 wickets in test cricket by claiming the wicket of India's Pragyan Ojha in July last year, also got a wicket from his last delivery in ODIs in Sri Lanka when he had Scott Styris trapped leg before wicket.

Muralitharan shrugged off injuries to finish with 2-42 in front of his home fans.

Angelo Mathews strained his side while fielding but came out to bat with a runner for a match-winning sixth wicket stand of 35 off 33 balls with Thilan Samaraweera.

"It shows how hungry they are to perform," Sangakkara said. "Murali has had a tough time in this tournament, he is not 100 per cent but the way he bowled was exceptional."

"Angie (Angelo Mathews) came back when he was needed, finished the job for us."

"We feel very happy that we are in the final, but sad that Murali has played his last game in Sri Lanka with us."

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