Tue, Apr 24, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Sri Lankans keep faith with opener despite lack of form

AFP , COLOMBO

Sri Lanka will persist with out-of-form opener Upul Tharanga for the World Cup semi-final against New Zealand, the country's chief selector said yesterday.

The left-hander's poor form -- he has scored just 17 runs in his past three innings -- raised speculation that former skipper Marvan Atapattu could replace him at Jamaica's Sabina Park today.

But Asantha de Mel, chairman of the Sri Lankan selectors, said Tharanga's good deeds far outweighed his recent failures and he deserved to stay in the team.

"We must not forget that Tharanga scored two centuries against England last year and also scored two centuries in the Champions Trophy," de Mel said just before leaving for the Carribean yesterday.

"In this World Cup also he was the highest scorer with 65 against India," he said.

De Mel, who opened the bowling in Sri Lanka's inaugural Test match in 1982, said it was difficult to fit the seasoned Atapattu into the batting order.

"There is no room for him at number five since Chamara Silva has secured that place by playing so well," he said.

De Mel said he had spoken with the team management and they agreed that Tharanga should not be axed.

Atapattu could miss out on a World Cup game in the Caribbean despite being in the squad, just as he did in the 1996 competition in the Indian subcontinent, which Sri Lanka won.

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