A string of unexpected results, which they set off with a win against England, have given the Lankans a reason to hope in what has otherwise been a very average tournament for them so far.
They have everything to play for as they gear up for a second game at Chester-le-Street inside three days, where they were outplayed by South Africa on Friday. While their final standing will depend on results from other games, Sri Lanka are still in contention for a top 4 spot.
Sri Lankan Middle Order Struggle
While the Sri Lankan top order has provided brisk starts, their middle order has let them down. Their batsmen from positions 3 to 6 have averaged 20.4 per wicket in this tournament, at a soporific strike rate of 72. Their openers, on the other hand, have averaged 38.4 per wicket and have a decent strike rate of 85.
This is not particularly surprising. The Lankan middle order has struggled ever since the 2015 World Cup, with Angelo Mathews the only middle order batsman to average 40+. Matthews’ struggles in this tournament has only intensified the middle order issues. He managed an 85 not out against England, but has found it tough to buy a run otherwise.
They would expect the likes of him and Kusal Mendis to get their act together in the final couple of games. Another aspect where the batsmen from the Island nation have failed in is to convert starts into big scores. They find themselves only above Afghanistan in terms of 50+ scores in this tournament.
Head coach Hathurasinghe and batting coach Jon Lewis will want the batsmen to not waste their starts in the final two games. Sri Lanka has a decent bowling line up, and with Lasith Malinga at the forefront, they can keep the opposition under pressure if they have runs on the board.
West Indies look to salvage some pride
When they dismantled Pakistan in their first game, which now seems like an eternity ago, the Windies had people talking about their chances in this World Cup. But ever since Mitchel Starc got the better of their egos at Trent Bridge in their very next match, the West Indies campaign has gone downhill. After being outplayed by England, Bangladesh and India, they find themselves out of contention for a spot in the semifinals.
Approaching ODIs as an extended T20 has hurt WI
Almost every batsman in the West Indies line up has the ability to clear the ground at will. A boon for them in T20 cricket, not to mention getting lucrative contracts from franchises, has been a bane in the 50-over format, especially in the current World Cup. The Windies batsmen have repeatedly gotten out trying to play big shots even when the required rate is less than run a ball. The West Indies have lost 20 wickets to attacking shots in 6 innings, next only to Afghanistan who have lost 27 in 8.
The West Indian batsmen have also struggled to rotate strike effectively in the middle overs. They have the least percentage of non-boundary runs in the middle overs (11-40) in this World Cup.
To make the situation worst, the West Indian openers have failed to provide them a start in this tournament so far. They have not had a single 50+ opening stand, and their opening partnership averages the least in this tournament. The have tried 3 different opening pairs (only Afghanistan has tried more) but to no avail.
Although Chris Gayle is the highest run getter for the Windies in this tournament, his approach of starting with caution has not reaped rewards as he averages only 33 (which drops to 18 while batting first).
To find a small reason to celebrate Gayle – certainly playing his last World Cup -- needs just 53 more runs to surpass Brian Lara’s tally of 10,348 runs and become the highest run-getter for the Windies in ODIs.
The West Indies would hope that the return of Sunil Ambris at the top of the order will help their cause. Ambris has enjoyed a rich vein of form in 2019, ranking high among the batsmen with the highest ODI average this year (309 runs at 77.3).
Come Monday, the Sri Lankans will want to play for that coveted semifinal berth; the Windies, on the other hand, have nothing to lose and will look to give their fans some reason to smile.