Pressure. It does strange things on a cricket field. Wins matches too. The team which handles stress better wins. More so in T20 games. Runs and wickets are mere tools to crank up the pressure. Lose a couple of quick wickets, and the match turns on its head. Why? That’s what pressure does. A team cruising to victory suddenly hit the skids.
The heat is on; that’s what they say. We see that in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup. Look back at the Bangladesh game against Sri Lanka in Sharjah on Sunday. Bangladesh openers Mohammad Naim and Liton Das blazed away in the powerplay, and Sri Lankan bowlers were under the pump. They wilted. Even their best bowler Wanindu Hasaranga went for runs, and the leg-spinner didn’t bowl his full quota of overs.
Pressure can numb the brain. It wrecks the thinking process. And that happened to the Sri Lankan captain. How else would you explain Dasun Shanaka’s decision to underbowl Chamika Karunaratne, a bowler who returned figures of 3-0-12-1? Lacks cricketing logic, isn't it?. So, blame it on pressure.
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A chase of 172 to win can be daunting, and that paved the way for Kushal Perera’s ungainly swipe. More pressure on Sri Lanka. Asalanka defused it with a flurry of sixes, only for Shakib Al Hasan to haul Bangladesh back into the game with a double strike.
Nerves are shot. Bangladesh fumble. Catches are dropped. Sixes fly, more runs follow, the required run rate drops, and the chase is over. Sri Lanka win. They beat pressure.