Despite his team's defeat in the second T20 international against New Zealand, Sri Lanka captain Lasith Malinga took heart from the fact that the youngsters in his team are fighting hard and giving their best.
Chasing 162 in the second game, New Zealand held their nerve to secure a four-wicket win in the final over. It was their second such win, after they chased down a competitive target, with five wickets in hand, in the first game as well. So far, New Zealand have managed to thwart any attempts by Sri Lanka to assert their dominance. "We tried our best. All the youngsters gave it their all and we had a decent score," Malinga said after the defeat on Tuesday.
"We still fought hard but didn't have the luck in those crucial moments. Glad with the brand of cricket we've played and this is how I want the team to play going forward. "We want to give freedom to youngsters to play their natural game, they're learning how to play T20s, and I want young players to show they're made for international cricket. Losing doesn't matter as long as the team shows character. Of course, we want to win the final game but also want to test our bench strength," he said.
With seven to win in the last over, Sri Lanka picked up wickets off the first two balls. New arrival Mitchell Santner then carted his first ball for six, although that result hadn't seemed likely initially. Having miscued his shot, Santner sent the ball travelling at a catchable height towards the cow corner boundary. But Shehan Jayasuriya and Kusal Mendis, fielding at long-on and deep midwicket, both ran towards it, and ended up suffering a nasty collision, an ICC report said.
Jayasuriya still snared the catch, but tripped and made contact with the boundary, leading to New Zealand being awarded six runs. Jayasuriya, who looked in bad shape, was immediately escorted off the field, but after subsequent assessments, both players appear to be fine and should be able to play in the final game. "They are alright and will play the next game, hopefully," said Malinga.
As for New Zealand, the manner in which they responded to the challenge in this game, as well as the series at large, pleased their captain Tim Southee. He especially praised Colin de Grandhomme and Tom Bruce, who hit fifties and shared a century stand for the fourth wicket. "It pleasing for us to see different people step up. Colin de Grandhomme was excellent and did well with Tom Bruce to set things up after those early wickets," he said. "We'll enjoy the series win tonight and then shift our focus to the last game."
The third and final T20I will take place at the same venue on September 6.