Few things highlight the relentlessness of the current international schedule like Sri Lanka's itinerary over the past few months. A difficult and challenging tour of South Africa was almost immediately followed by a gruelling Commonwealth Bank series in Australia, five days after which they were playing their first match in the Asia Cup.
The short gap between tournaments and a massive political rally in Dhaka on Monday meant the first time the Sri Lankans came to the Shere Bangla stadium since they landed in Bangladesh was for their opening match against India. Even Virat Kohli, Man of the Match on Tuesday and a batsman in the form of his life, acknowledged the difficulties in adapting from the bouncier pitches in Australia to the ones in the subcontinent.
Mahela Jayawardena, though, didn't think a lack of training sessions in Mirpur or a chance to assess the conditions and tailor game-plans earlier than the day of the game affected his team. "No not really, I thought we needed a few days off," Jayawardena said. "We played five games in ten days in Australia, including travelling, and then had a 24-hour trip to Bangladesh, so we needed two days off, and because of the situation yesterday [Monday], we were forced to rest and I think the boys were quite happy with that. We had a good practice for about an hour and a half before the game, no complaints."
The manner in which Sri Lanka's top order set about dismantling India's bowling early in the chase didn't suggest any difficulty in having had to switch continents. Jayawardena's drives, cuts, dabs and pick-up shots towards deep-backward square leg in an hour of controlled aggression had India scrambling to limit the damage.
A combination of a pitch that was getting easier to bat on and a speedy outfield also helped Sri Lanka believe they weren't out of it, though India had put on a big score. "Three-hundred, I thought, was gettable on this wicket," Jayawardena said. "We batted really well but we made quite a few mistakes [too], and that has probably cost us the game."
One of the mistakes he was referring to was the shot that led to his downfall. Sri Lanka were flying at 124 for 1 in the 19th over when his attempt to run a wide ball very fine to the third-man boundary, ended up being too fine and a catch for MS Dhoni. The fielding, too, was a bit lax - a dropped catch, several close run-out chances missed and some fumbles. In the absence of the rested Lasith Malinga, they also had the problem most teams in world cricket seem to be currently facing: plugging the runs at the end of the innings. Dhoni and Suresh Raina plundered 95 in the final ten as Sri Lanka's bowlers sent down full toss after full toss, many of them heading for the pads.
"There are a lot of ifs and buts, I should not have played the shot I played, we were cruising at that time. As a team I think we gave away 15 runs on the field, we are a much better fielding side. Our last ten overs of the bowling wasn't disciplined enough, its crucial we don't make mistakes like this against a good opposition."
Despite those lapses, Sri Lanka were still in the game when the batting Powerplay was taken in the 36th over of the chase, with both Kumar Sangakkara and Lahiru Thirimanne having settled in. R Ashwin sent both back in an over, as, sweeping, Sangakkara didn't connect well enough, and Thirimanne didn't connect at all. "I thought we were in control of the game for quite some time," Jayawardena said. "Except for my bad shot and two wickets in the first over of the Powerplay - that probably cost us the match."
What also scuttled Sri Lanka was the absence of their two allrounders, Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera. Mathews has shown himself to be adept at closing out matches, while Perera's powerful strikes would have helped the chase. More importantly, Jayawardena would have had more bowling options - he had to resort to using Chamara Kapugedera at one point in the double-century stand between Virat Kohli and Gautam Gambhir.
"It is tough to get a combination going, both Thisara and Angelo are injured, we are trying to see what is the best combination we can come up with. Given the wicket, we thought we should play the extra batsman and chase."