Cremer rues absence of back-up plan against spin

Graeme Cremer conceded Zimbabwe’s batsmen may have been too eager on the sweeps and reverse sweeps during the second ODI on Sunday, even though those strokes had proved productive during Friday’s record chase. Sri Lanka’s best bowler Lakshan Sandakan, meanwhile, had come prepared for that tactic from Zimbabwe, which goes some way to explaining his match figures of 4 for 52.

Zimbabwe had been 67 for 1 before the spinners came into operation in Galle, and prompted a collapse that cost the visitors five wickets in the space of 10.3 overs. Sean Williams, Sikandar Raza and Ryan Burl all fell attempting to sweep or reverse sweep.

“Maybe with the wicket, we should have adjusted, should have hit the ball down the ground a bit more,” Cremer said after the seven-wicket defeat. “I thought the wicket was a little bit different from the pitch for the first game, and we didn’t adjust early enough. At one stage we could have batted off the overs – 230 could have been a decent score, but we lost too many wickets in the middle.”

Sandakan, playing his first ODI since March, employed several strategies to counter Zimbabwe’s sweep-happy batsmen. Early in the innings, he overcame Hamilton Masakadza’s reverse sweep threat by firing deliveries on a leg-stump line. Later in the innings, the dip he achieved also made him a difficult bowler to play across the line.

“We identified that they were sweeping us, and we tried to change the field, slow the ball up a bit and change our lengths,” Sandakan said. “We didn’t try too many changes, but length and pace was important and it worked for us today. We also bowled wicket to wicket – a little straighter – to stop some of those shots.”

While Sandakan had made the more telling blows to the opposition innings, debutant legspinner Wanidu Hasaranga knocked out Zimbabwe’s tail with a hat-trick in his third over. After the match, captain Angelo Mathews said he had not known much about Hasaranga, which suggests Cremer and the Zimbabwe are likely to have been even less enlightened on the threat he posed.

“To get a hat-trick on debut that something special,” Cremer said of Hasaranga. “He looked a little bit nervous when he started, which is understandable. But credit to him when he stuck at it, and credit to the skipper having faith in him to keep him on. To clean up the back end of the innings was excellent.”

Sandakan also lauded the 19-year-old’s poise. “When someone is debuting, he is under pressure. He managed the pressure well and bowled his googlies, flippers and leg-spin nicely.”

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