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Sri Lanka wary of Gayle factor

Sri Lanka are wary of West Indies bouncing back today in their Celkon Mobile Cup Tri-Nation Series match at Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain. But it is especially the Chris Gayle factor that is their main cause for concern.

The Sri Lankans trained yesterday at the match venue ahead of today’s 9.30 a.m. start, with some warm-up drills, catching practice and a little fun in between as they prepare for a victory that would put them close to Thursday’s final.

A loss today will put them in a virtual final against world champions India on Tuesday at the Oval. Last week Gayle was the main impetus with the bat in Sri Lanka’s six-wicket loss to the Windies, who head the three-team table with nine points after two victories over their opponents and one loss to India. Sri Lanka and India are both on five points having won one match apiece. Each team has one bonus point.

Senior Sri Lanka batsman Mahela Jayawardene said yesterday that his team is keen to focus on its strengths, but is also hoping to dismiss Gayle early and keep the hosts under pressure. Of their two matches, the former Sri Lanka captain said: “When you’re playing against some quality players you need to give a bit of leverage to those probables (game-changing players) and see where we went wrong, which I think was the batting and we didn’t put enough runs on the board, and that’s what we did against India.”

“Obviously the Gayle factor was there,” he added. “Once Chris gets going like that, then a small total (is even harder to defend). Once we got Chris we (saw) that we got through the middle order quite easily. So even that 220 would have been a good score if we had got Gayle up front.”

Commenting on the pitch they will use for today’s encounter, Jayawardene described it as a “good wicket”.

“There is a bit of grass,” he noted, “that means that’s a good surface, there’s no demons in there.”

He pointed out that India applied themselves in scoring 311 in Friday’s win over West Indies, and is hoping his team can do the same.

There will be no taking the home team for granted, Jayawardene insisted, especially with the Caribbean team eager to rebound from their 102-run demolition at the hands of India.

“It’s a fair comment that [West Indies] will come hard because losing at home is not something that they enjoy, and the way they lost the last game, they’ll definitely be looking to come back strong. That’s something we have to make sure we’re aware of.

“But rather than looking at the opposition too much, we’re trying to focus on our strengths and how we can execute a good game plan,” Jayawardene explained. “We will analyse them and see what West Indies’ team tomorrow is going to be and how we can adapt and see how we can improve.” —Kern DeFreitas 

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