No doubt the runs will come from Mathews, Mendis: Jon Lewis

The role of Sri Lanka’s batting coach is not the easiest job in world cricket. After all, during this World Cup, Jon Lewis is working with a batting group which does not include the country’s best batsman, Dinesh Chandimal, nor their highest run scorer in ODI cricket over the past two years, Niroshan Dickwella. Captain and opening batsman Dimuth Karunaratne had not played an ODI since the previous World Cup when he was appointed captain in April and Angelo Mathews, the most experienced batsman, has made two ducks so far. Nobody else is in much better form. Lewis might consider that he is rather being asked to turn water into wine.
If he fails to work some magic with a batting group which was bowled out for 130 against New Zealand and that then lost seven wickets for 36 runs against Afghanistan, albeit in a victory delivered thanks to their bowlers, Sri Lanka’s campaign promises to be truly forgettable. Despite their victory over the Afghans, predicting where another Sri Lankan win might come from is not straightforward. They will certainly be underdogs against all the other sides they play and that will be the case against Bangladesh in Bristol on Tuesday if the wet weather which is forecast stays away. Right now, the washout against Pakistan on Friday is looking like a decent result.
Which is not to say the assembled group of Sri Lankan batsmen lack talent. Far from it. But in 50-over cricket, that talent has lain dormant for far too long, consistency but a mirage in a desert full of batting collapses and insipidness. It has been the major weakness in a horrible run of ODI form, with just five wins from their last 22 completed matches. Falling in a heap against Afghanistan was an indication of a lack of confidence too. Once one wicket fell, panic spread and panic only spreads like that when you are unsure of your substance.
“We played some good cricket but Afghanistan probably weren’t at their best at the start with the new ball,” said Lewis. “As they improved, we probably didn’t recognise that they had improved. We expected them to carry on the same level. So when we opened the door, which we did, they pushed on through. It was our fault.
“Against Afghanistan we got away with that. I’m confident the players of that quality will definitely come to the party soon. But yeah, we do need more from some of the batters.”The form of Mathews at number five is a concern as is that of the rest of the middle order. Numbers four to seven have contributed just nine — NINE — runs across two innings. Lewis says Mathews feels his game is in a good place, that he has just had two low scores which can happen to anybody. To be fair, Mathews scored 64 against South Africa in the first warm-up game, so isn’t long out of runs but without Chandimal, he is such an important cog in the Sri Lankan wheel. He is one of the players that Lewis was talking about. His team needs more from their former captain. “I’ve got no reason to doubt that the runs will come for him,” said Lewis.
One place above Mathews in the order, Kusal Mendis is having no better time, registering scores of two and nought. His place in this ODI side in such a pivotal position of number four is one of the fault lines in the batting order, given he averages just 27 in 65 matches with only five scores of more than 70 in those games. Without Chandimal, his position is probably secure for the rest of the tournament but his failure to yet nail the 50-over format is not only hampering the team’s performance but also disappointing given Mendis’ consistent and eye-catching displays in the Test arena. “He’s a very talented player. He’s a talented test player,” said Lewis. “The numbers at the moment look good. 50 overs, his numbers aren’t where a player of is ability should be yet.
“I think his conversion from 20s, 30s into 80s, 90s, hundreds is the big step forward he needs to make. In the two warm up games against Australia and South Africa, he got 30 in both [37 and 24]. He looked in good touch, and that’s the sort of day when you’ve got to get a hundred because you can’t be in good touch every day. So if you could convert his starts.