Sri Lanka's batting has been lopsided in all their three World Cup games so far but it was only against Australia that it was truly exposed. After racking up a 125-run opening stand, they lost 10 wickets for just 84 runs.

While it's easy to say it was just a bad day, it would be disingenuous not to acknowledge the signs leading up to this meltdown. While last month's dire Asia Cup final - 50 all out - is still fresh in the memory, you could argue that was down to facing one of the best fast-bowling attacks in conditions that favoured them. What is of greater concern for Sri Lanka is how they have fared on more batter-friendly surfaces.

If you include the two World Cup warm-up matches against Bangladesh and Afghanistan, Sri Lanka have posted totals of 263, 294, 326, 344 and 209. A closer look, however, unearths promising positions wasted in each of those games.

Against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka scored only 131 runs after the 20th over; against Afghanistan they went from 240 for 2 in the 30th to 294 all out; and against Pakistan they scored only 115 runs in the final 20 overs. Even against South Africa there is an argument to be made that after Kusal Mendis' blistering start, he might not have lost his wicket as early as he did if he had adequate support from his team-mates.

"Despite our promising start, we deeply regret not being able to sustain it, resulting in us being limited to a score of 209 runs," Sri Lankan opener Pathum Nissanka said after their five-wicket defeat to Australia. "On a wicket like this, I believe we should aim for a total closer to 300 runs, and this was a contributing factor to our defeat."

Nissanka, who scored 61 off 67 balls during the opening stand of 125 with Kusal Perera, is doing his job for the most part. The Sri Lankan blueprint is pretty straightforward - lay a platform and then launch. But they haven't been able to launch as far as they would have liked to.

"To be candid, the opposition's bowlers consistently hit good areas during the middle overs, which created a challenging situation for our batsmen," Nissanka said. "Unfortunately, we couldn't handle it as effectively as we would have liked. Had we managed to play better, we could have achieved a total of 300."

Against Australia, the openers performed but Sri Lanka's two centurions this tournament - Mendis and Sadeera Samarawickrama - did not, falling to Zampa for 9 and 8 respectively.

"That's the nature of cricket. We performed admirably in the previous two games, but such fluctuations can occur," Nissanka said. "Our focus now is to learn from our mistakes and strive for strong performances in the upcoming matches."

The lack of consistent output from the middle and lower order is of greater concern, but when asked why such collapses were happening, Nissanka evaded the question.

"As a team, we play every game hoping to win. Unfortunately, we lost the last three matches. we had played well before that. And we hope to play well in the remaining matches."

After suffering three defeats in three games, Sri Lanka's middle and lower order need to start chipping in before it gets too late. If not, when the top four crumble under the burden placed on them as they did against Australia, such collapses will become more commonplace regardless of the type of surface they play on.



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