Dasun Shanaka sizes up higher responsibilities in Sri Lanka's batting order

Dasun Shanaka celebrates his fifty
Sri Lanka v England, 3rd ODI, Dambulla October 16, 2018

With Angelo Mathews axed and Sri Lanka looking to firm up their top order for the World Cup, Dasun Shanaka has gone from being out of the side entirely a few months ago, to being saddled with some substantial and surprising batting responsibilities.

Regarded as an allrounder when he first arrived in international cricket, Shanaka has more recently been thought of as a specialist batsman, and someone who can potentially bat higher up the order.

Coming in at No. 5 - Mathews' old haunt - on Saturday, Shanaka said the team had begun to look to him for innings of considerable heft, rather than the cameos he has sometimes provided.

"I've been sent up to No. 5 because I had been consistent in the domestic T20 and limited-overs tournaments," Shanaka said. "What the team needs is for me to bat as many overs as possible. The challenge is to get myself in then settle into my natural game. If I do that the runs will come."

Sri Lanka coach Chandika Hathurusingha has publicly expressed faith in Shanaka the batsman, labelling him a "much improved cricketer" over the past year. Part of that faith, perhaps, was built upon the good performances in domestic competitions that Shanaka mentioned. He was the league's second-highest scorer in the Provincial T20 tournament in August, having hit 312 runs at an average of 78. His last two innings in that tournament had yielded 105 not out off 52 balls, and 60 not out off 29.

"The coach spoke to me and gave advice on how to prepare and how to bat for long," Shanaka said. "Tactics is most important to improve that area of the game - I have been asked to play out the first 15-20 balls and then to go for my shots."

Sri Lanka's top order has been in some flux over the past three years, with numerous combinations having been trialled, while batsmen have been moved up and down the order. There is expected to be another change on Saturday, with Sadeera Samarawickrama expected to replace Kusal Perera, who has been ruled out of the third match with a quad strain. However, beyond the injury-enforced changes, Sri Lanka would like to keep things as stable as possible, Shanaka said.

"If we have a settled batting order it's good for the team. We have talked a lot about it, and the captain and senior players have decided that from this series we should try and let players get used to their roles."

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