Sri Lanka opted for spin as early as the 11th over, which helped India get off the hook in the Under-19 World Cup semi-final © Getty Images
Charith Asalanka smiles at you whether it is just after leading Sri Lanka Under-19s to a quarter-final win over England or a semi-final defeat to India. He smiled when the Indian bowlers and fielders tried to sledge him; the exchange was completely harmless and Asalanka was so amiable that his opponents eventually went up and patted him on the back. His dismissal in the 10th over made Sri Lanka’s task of chasing 268 ever more difficult. Eventually they lost by 97 runs.
Asalanka had been the team’s highest scorer in this Under-19 World Cup, so too in all Youth ODIs since the last one. He had won two Player-of-the-Match awards, and along with Avishka Fernando, could have given India a few jitters. But it wasn’t to be.
Asalanka had to face a barrage of questions about his decision to bowl first in knockout conditions. Once again there was that smile.
There had been rain in the air and the pitch did give fast bowlers Asitha Fernando and Lahiru Kumara enough juice to make the Indian openers jump around. They removed the openers Rishabh Pant and Ishan Kishan in the first ten overs, but Asalanka, who said on the day before that slow bowling was their strength, brought on left-arm spinner Thilan Nimesh and leg-spinner Wanidu Hasaranga from both ends from the 11th over. India found breathing space, Anmolpreet Singh and Sarfaraz Khan found match-winning half-centuries.
At the end of the game, Asalanka said he doesn’t regret bowling first or bringing on his spinners early because Fernando and Kumara were getting tired.
“I think we got exactly the right decision,” Asalanka said. “We got the advantage of pitch earlier. You saw that we bowled really well and got two wickets for 30-odd runs.
“In the last match against England, we played just one fast bowler and today we played two fast bowlers. That’s why we had decided to bowl first. I think in that time [after 11 overs], they [the fast bowlers] were really tired.
“I am a little disappointed with spinners also but you know, they are good at playing spin and they batted really well.
“I think it was a little high total to chase,” Asalanka said. “They were really batting well so credit goes to them. I think I am again really disappointed with the batting.”
Having done well against England with spin, Sri Lanka really didn’t think about picking a third seamer. “After the match we can think so many things, but I think we couldn’t change the side. We played against England with our spin,” Asalanka said.
Asalanka’s next target is to play for Sri Lanka A and believes the squad he has led in the Under-19 World Cup could feature in the senior side soon enough.
“I think sometimes we have been really troubled in batting [here],” he said. “In the quarter-final, we came back really strongly and won very easily. I think we found Sri Lanka some good players. I think this is a good thing for Sri Lanka cricket.”
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo