Sun, May 18, 2003 - Page 23 News List

Sri Lanka, Pakistan encourage batsmen to get out of slump

AP , DAMBULLA, SRI LANKA

Rival captains Marvan Atapattu of Sri Lanka and Pakistan's Rashid Latif have challenged their batsmen to produce runs when the second round of the limited-overs tri-series starts today.

"My batsmen must start valuing their wickets, they need to quickly fight a way out of the batting slump," Atapattu said as his team prepared to defend its five-year winning record of limited-overs series at home.

To protect its unbeaten series record here since July 1998, Sri Lanka needs to avenge its 79-run series opener loss to Pakistan when the teams meet again Sunday.

"One's got to accept that Sri Lanka's batting is going though a terrible lean patch," said Atapattu. "This has gone far too long, but we've worked hard on our batting and hope to reverse the trend -- it's time now for the batsmen to deliver."

Atapattu said his batsmen are capable of dominating at Rangiri Stadium, where the swinging and bouncing ball has given bowlers the ascendancy.

The fresh and lively pitch, with excessive moisture during the morning session, has turned the matches into a virtual lottery as the toss plays a crucial role.

Batsmen have struggled in the conditions, but Latif says that its gives his young lineup the perfect learning environment.

"So what if the conditions are tailor-made for pace bowlers, the batsmen must learn to handle such adversities," he said.

Pakistan overhauled its team after the World Cup, where the 1992 World Cup champion was ousted in the first round.

Eight veteran players were dropped and a new-look team was fielded in last month's four-nation Sharjah Cup, where it won four consecutive matches to clinch the title.

"The match against Sri Lanka is a crucial one," Latif said. ``Managing to repeat our first-round win will instill confidence after our loss to New Zealand.

"A win on Sunday could spur us to the second one-day title in two months.''

Latif said the conditions in Dambulla had dictated the low scores, but batsmen must not shed their positive outlook.

"Our bowling has been clinching us victories, and now it's time for the batsmen to prove their mettle," Latif said. "This is a test that should steel our young batsmen for future challenges."

Latif ignored a painful groin strain, sustained during the Pakistan's first match, to play in the second game. The skipper said the five-day break had helped him recuperate for the next round.

Sri Lanka, Pakistan and New Zealand all start the second round with a win and a loss apiece, but the bonus point system puts New Zealand atop the standings with seven points, with Pakistan on six and Sri Lanka on five.

Each win is worth five points and bonus points are awarded if the winner achieves a run-rate 1.25 times that of the opposition, but the losing team retains the point by not conceding it. Sri Lanka seemed on course to claiming the bonus point but a middle-order slump slowed it down.

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