Coming into the World Cup, many didn't know what to make of a young and inexperienced Sri Lankan side. A cricketing nation with a proud history, Sri Lanka had been struggling with form and lack of talent in recent years. Their squad presented a lot of surprises. Dimuth Karunaratne was named the captain and some of the experienced players were ignored, the unit clearly lacked experience and quality.
In the last World Cup, Sri Lanka was in the group which contained hosts New Zealand and Australia. They navigated the course picking up victories over Bangladesh, England, Afghanistan, and Scotland to see them finish third in the group behind the two hosts. However, in the quarter-finals, they fell to South Africa after a timid batting display.
Following the 2015 World Cup, Sri Lankan legends such as Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene called time on their decorated careers. However, the likes of Lasith Malinga and former captain Angelo Mathews stuck around and were named for the World Cup 2019 squad. They were joined by a couple of seasoned campaigners like Lahiru Thirimanne and Thisara Perera.
However, Sri Lanka perhaps missed a chance to blood some younger players in the intermediate period between the two tournaments as the average age of their squad was a touch under 30. Only two members of their squad, Avishka Fernando and Kusal Mendis, were under the age of 25.
It's perhaps hard to judge their performance against what they would have expected going into the tournament. Only the most ardent Sri Lankan supporter could have seen them making the top 4, but realistically they would have expected to beat Afghanistan and take the West Indies, Pakistan, and Bangladesh to a contest.
While their tournament started poorly against New Zealand, they narrowly edged Afghanistan in their second game of the tournament before two of their matches against Pakistan and Bangladesh were abandoned.
Sri Lanka would then pull off one of the biggest upsets of this World Cup when they beat tournament hosts England, defending only 233 runs. They managed their third victory of the tournament against the West Indies, who seemed to have completely disintegrated, allowing Sri Lanka to post their first and only 300+ score of the tournament.
Standouts and Discoveries
Sri Lanka was undoubtedly better with the bowling than batting in the tournament. While they were bowled out in 4 out of their 7 completed games, they also managed to bowl out England and Afghanistan, as well as getting West Indies 9 wickets down and Australia 7 down in their innings. The bowlers were once again led by the veteran Malinga, who racked up 13 wickets during the tournament, with best figures of 4/43 against England.
With the bat, the performance of Avishka Fernando has undoubtedly been a success. Despite missing half the games in the tournament. Fernando ended up with 203 runs from his 4 innings, placing him just behind the opening pair of Karunaratne and Perera, as well as Mathews. Fernando scored Sri Lanka's first century in the tournament and ended with an average over 50 with the second best strike rate too.
The biggest disappointment of the tournament was undoubtedly their opening game. While the team would have hoped that they could get the campaign off on the right foot and at least been competitive against New Zealand, instead they got all out within 30 overs.
Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry took 3 wickets each as Sri Lanka failed to build any momentum. Opener Karunaratne carried his bat through the innings, passing 50, but ran out of partners at the end. While the batters couldn't keep New Zealand's pace attack, the bowlers couldn't find their way either, losing the match within 20 overs and failed to take a single wicket as the Kiwis chasing down the paltry total in just over 16 overs.
Also read – World cup winners list