DURHAM – It was only a few months ago that Sri Lanka were the butt of all the jokes, floundering from one defeat to another en-route to a 5-0 whitewash against South Africa.
Who is laughing now though?
Here in the countryside town of Chester-le-Street, it’s Dimuth Karunaratne’s Sri Lankans that are still very much in the race for the World Cup semi-finals with the Proteas the clowns of social media.
To be fair, Sri Lanka still have huge chinks in their armour, but they have at least reinforced it with key personnel. Despite leading Sri Lanka to a maiden Test series win in South Africa, Karunaratne was nowhere near the ODI outfit back in March, while talisman Angelo Mathews missed the tour through injury.
Both have made vital contributions at the World Cup with Karunaratne striking two half-centuries already, while Mathews played a blinder in the shock victory over England last week.
Once again it pays homage to the fact that senior players have taken accountability at crucial junctures - a glaring feature that the Proteas have lacked. Equally, they have managed to eke out results in high-pressure situations even when not at their best.
“The thing for me I’m looking at is some of the players that are playing not being there in South Africa, like Angelo and then he was not there, and Kusal (Perera) did not play in the last few games and Dimuth as well, so they are in form,” Sri Lanka coach Chandika Hathurusingha said.
“I think the important mission for us is to play good cricket. The cricket we know and the brand we know we are capable of playing and I think if we do that, particularly on Friday, and the game against Australia, we give ourselves the best chance of beating them,” Proteas all-rounder JP Duminy said, who be in line-up for the injured David Miller.@ZaahierAdams