Cardiff: A 10-wicket thrashing from New Zealand still fresh in their minds, veteran Sri Lanka pacer Lasith Malinga on Monday said their second World Cup match against Afghanistan is a "must-win" game for the Islanders. Both Sri Lanka and Afghanistan suffered defeats in their tournament openers and will square off against each other here on Tuesday.
While Sri Lanka suffered a 10-wicket loss to New Zealand, Afghanistan were beaten by seven wickets by defending champions Australia. "We need a must-win game in this competition, we need a must-win game tomorrow. We will try our best in accuracy and tactically, everything hopefully will be there tomorrow," Malinga said on the eve of the Afghanistan game.
Sri Lanka collapsed to 136 within 30 overs against the Black Caps and Malinga said the batsmen need to take more responsibility against the ever-improving Afghans. "At the moment, we are concerned with our own skill and how we're going to play. That's what we are most concerned about. Whoever is batting or bowling, he has to have a perfect game," he said.
"The most important thing we need is patience, patience is very important. We know these conditions, we can have someone get 60, 70 runs and still some balls can move. "We have to analyse the conditions. Whoever is the batsman, he has to finish the game. Whoever takes responsibility, bowler or batsman, whoever is the best tomorrow will win," Malinga added.
The 35-year-old right-arm fast bowler, however, cautioned his teammates against taking Afghanistan lightly. "Afghanistan have good experience players because most of the players play in franchise cricket. "They have that experience, they know how to accelerate and they have confidence, a few from IPL and others have been playing franchise cricket. The important thing is pressure handling," he said.
"I think they have more experience, especially handling pressure, and that's the big challenge for us. I believe if we do our best, we can see good finishing at the end of the day," he added.
After winning the World Cup way back in 1996, Sri Lanka finished second-best in 2007 and 2011. The worrying factor for Sri Lanka is that they had only won two of their last 16 ODIs coming into the tournament. But Malinga still believes Sri Lanka has the ability to go far in the tournament, provided they can pick up a confidence-boosting win against Afghanistan on Tuesday.
"I think for our first match back against New Zealand, we know how tough these conditions are and we tried our best but it didn't go our way," he said. "We have in this tournament nine matches, but it's just our second match starting tomorrow and before the match both teams are the same - no runs, no wickets, still the same. "Whoever is doing best first half innings, they can carry on the winning way. We have talent but not much experience in these conditions and people to have to realise what the team expects in this situation," Malinga concluded.