Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews is not taking Bangladesh lightly in Thursday’s World Cup clash despite a superior record, saying he expects a tough game against the South Asian rivals. (Full Coverage| Points table| Fixtures)
“This will be a pressure match for all of us,” Mathews said of the Pool A encounter at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground.
“It will certainly be a tough game. Bangladesh have performed well in the recent past. They have a good set of players and we have to take all their batsmen and bowlers seriously.
“Whoever plays the best cricket will win and we hope we can play our best cricket tomorrow (Thursday).”
Sri Lanka, the 1996 champions and finalists in the last two editions, have won 32 of 37 one-day internationals against Bangladesh, and their record in the World Cup is even better.
Bangladesh were hammered by 10 wickets in 2003 and by 198 runs four years later in the teams’ only two previous World Cup meetings, leaving Sri Lanka overwhelming favourites to extend the streak.
But Mathews’ men have had an uninspiring start to the 2015 event, with their batsmen struggling to cope with conditions in New Zealand.
Sri Lanka were thrashed by the co-hosts in the tournament opener in Christchurch, going down by 98 runs after New Zealand had piled up 331 for six.
Then a scare awaited them against Afghanistan in Dunedin, as the minnows fought tooth and nail before the Test side scraped through on the back of a century by the ever-reliable Mahela Jayawardene.
Having left New Zealand with two points from as many games, Sri Lanka will hope the change in scenery and conditions in Australia will galvanise their campaign.
“The game against Afghanistan was a close one, we need to improve our standards,” Mathews warned. “What we need to learn is to dominate from ball one and stay in the game till the end.
“We have not played our best cricket yet. If we play the way we can, we can beat any team in the world. We have got to step up and set our goals high. Play every game as a final or a semi-final.
“The batters have to score runs and the bowlers have to take wickets.”
Star batsmen Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan are still to fire, but Sri Lanka’s main concern will be the indisciplined bowling which saw 16 wides and a no-ball conceded against Afghanistan.
Pace spearhead Lasith Malinga has given away 125 runs in two matches at this tournament so far, but Mathews was not worried that his main strike bowler was a long way away from hitting top form after ankle surgery last year.
“Lasith is working extremely hard at the nets,” he said.
“One has to be at the peak when the quarter-finals come and he and the others are working towards that.”
Mathews confirmed that all-rounder Jeevan Mendis was out of the tournament with a hamstring injury and the team management had called up opener Upul Tharanga as a replacement.
“Unfortunately, Jeevan is out for two to three weeks,” the captain said. “Upul is expected to arrive tonight but we have yet to decide if we will play him or not against Bangladesh.”
Bangladesh have three points from two matches, following a comfortable win over Afghanistan and a washed-out game against Australia.