Ailing Sri Lankan cricketers limping to finish line of pre-World Cup tour

IN DOUBT: Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews missed the Dunedin double-header with a calf injury and has now come down ...

IN DOUBT: Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews missed the Dunedin double-header with a calf injury and has now come down with flu.

Not much has gone right for Sri Lanka's cricketers on their pre-World Cup tour and there was more calamity yesterday.

Fast bowler Lasith Malinga made an instant impact, even though he has been officially ruled out of today's seventh and final one-dayer against New Zealand in Wellington, as he recovers from ankle surgery.

Instead Malinga padded up and had a power hitting session in the centre of the Basin Reserve, peppering the RA Vance Stand.

One impeccably timed six cleared the northern sightscreen and whacked team manager Michael de Zoysa a sickening blow in the ribs, as he kindly helped a photographer identify players on his laptop.

It caused immediate concern but the manager was later given the all-clear, while Malinga was gently admonished by team-mates on his return.

Stand-in skipper Lahiru Thirimanne said Malinga, a vital cog in Sri Lanka's bowling attack at the World Cup, would not be risked even though he was close to full fitness.

The World Cup opener on February 14 in Christchurch will be the next time the Black Caps see him.

"We don't want to take any chances. He will have another 10 days to train and get fit for the World Cup so he won't be playing tomorrow," Thirimanne said.

Sri Lanka's top spinner, Rangana Herath, will also be missing today, having returned home for what was described as a family health matter.

And regular captain Angelo Mathews, who missed the Dunedin double-header with a calf injury, came down with flu and missed training on Tuesday and yesterday.

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"Angelo has the flu so we have to look tomorrow morning at what his situation is," said Thirimanne on the chances of the key all-rounder returning.

Sri Lanka's high point this series was their six-wicket win in Hamilton but they have lost the past three in a row. Sunday's 120-run defeat in Dunedin was labelled New Zealand's most complete performance of the series by batting coach Craig McMillan.

Bowling without Malinga in the second half of the innings is clearly Sri Lanka's concern after the Black Caps batsmen took them to the cleaners, leaving their star-studded batting lineup too steep a chase.

"We want to get that momentum right for the World Cup.

"Mainly our middle-order batting and also the death bowling.

"These two areas we have to be more consistent," Thirimanne said.

 - The Dominion Post

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