Sri Lanka confident batsmen will bounce back in crucial Asia Cup match against Afghanistan

Batting coach Thilan Samaraweera backs his side to learn from mistakes after stinging defeat to Bangladesh

Sri Lankan cricketer Akila Dananjaya (L), Sri Lanka's cricket team captain Angelo Mathews (R) and Manager of the national team Charith Senanayake (C) look on as Buddhist monks chant prayers for their success during a Buddhist ceremony in Colombo on September 11, 2018, prior to the team's departure for a cricket tour in Dubai to participate in the Asia Cup Tournament from September 15 till September 28. (Photo by ISHARA S. KODIKARA / AFP)
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Sri Lanka will bring in spinner Akila Dananjaya for their must-win Asia Cup game against Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

Dananjaya arrived on Sunday afternoon and immediately joined the team’s training session at the ICC Academy in Dubai on Sunday.

The 25-year-old off-spinner did not travel with the squad, choosing instead to be with his wife when she gave birth to a baby girl on Friday.

Sri Lanka's batting coach Thilan Samaraweera all but confirmed the spinner will be included in the playing XI against Afghanistan, a day after their 137-run defeat to Bangladesh in Dubai on Saturday night, which has put pressure on the Angelo Mathews' side.

Defeat could see them crashing out of the continental tournament.

“Akila can be among wickets in the middle overs and his absence was felt against Bangladesh,” the former Sri Lanka batsman said when asked if they missed Dananjaya.

“What I feel is that when we miss out on guys like [batsman Dinesh] Chandimal and Dananjaya, it creates an opportunity for others. But how they make use of that opportunity is another matter.”

Samaraweera, a veteran of 81 Tests, 53 one-day internationals and 21 Twenty20s, conceded the technical staff were disappointed by their performance in the first game.

“The batting was awful,” he said. “The fielding and bowling were ordinary. They [Bangladesh] gave us three opportunities.

“First, we got two early wickets and then Tamim Iqbal was injured. We let them off the hook by dropping two catches at that point.

“They were 170-6 at one stage, but we gave away 40 runs in three overs. A total of 260 was still gettable. Hopefully, it can be a turning point.”

Samaraweera jumped to the batsmen's defence, insisting they did not lack the skill. He expects they will be among the runs against Afghanistan.

“We improved against South Africa after the first two ODI games,” he added. “We are back on square one in this tournament.

“This seems to be a trend when we look back in the last seven months. We don’t start well," he pointed out.

Sri Lankan batting coach Thilan Samaraweera (R) speaks with Upul Tharanga (C) and Kusal Mendis during a training session at the Dubai Sports city in Dubai on September 13, 2018. The Asia Cup, a one day international (ODI) tournament will be held in Dubai and Abou Dabi from September 15 to September 28, featuring teams from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Hong Kong and Afghanistan. / AFP / ISHARA S.  KODIKARA
Sri Lanka's batting coach Thilan Samaraweera, right, is confident his players will deliver against Afghanistan. AFP


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"If you take out tour to Bangladesh, we lost the first two games. Then against South Africa in the first ODI, we lost something like five wickets for 30 runs.

“We lost six wickets for 60 on Saturday. When they are under pressure, they lack options and clarity. The decision making becomes poor and they lack confidence. We need to make their mental aspect right.

Samaraweera believes they have arrived with their best batting unit, barring Chandimal who is nursing a fractured middle finger on his right hand.

“The best nine batsmen are here on tour,” he said.

“We can only change their mindset. There is no issue with skill. When put under pressure the decision making has to be clear.

“They were too scared to take decisions and they played with self-doubt. As coaches we need to fix that issue, which we have done all day. Hopefully, we’ll see a different batting side.

“We have to win. Then if we win by a big margin we will qualify. But otherwise we have to wait on the Afghanistan and Bangladesh game.”

Afghanistan are certain to face a backlash and their captain Asghar Stanikzai is ready to face the tune.

“It’s a group of death with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and we know we have to face two experienced teams. We are ready for them,” he said.