"We let ourselves down in the five ODIs. Then this game was super and a bitter pill to swallow" - Nic Pothas. © Getty Images

“We let ourselves down in the five ODIs. Then this game was super and a bitter pill to swallow” – Nic Pothas. © Getty Images

Nic Pothas, the Sri Lanka coach, was full of praise for his young team’s fight in the second Twenty20 International against Pakistan, terming it a “good game” after Shadab Khan’s last over six sealed the win for the hosts in Abu Dhabi on Friday (October 27).

A new-look Sri Lanka side fought till the last in defence of a modest 124, but Shadab helped Pakistan seal a nervy two-wicket win for an unbeatable 2-0 series lead. Pothas said his team fought well and it was bad luck that they lost the game.

“Yeah, you can say this is the best match we have played,” said Pothas, who will not go to Lahore for Sunday’s third and final match due to security fears. “It is funny because we arrived here and played two good Test matches. I’m very happy with those but probably we let ourselves down in the five ODIs. Then this game was super and a bitter pill to swallow.

“You got to take wickets if you have to win with 124 on board,” he added. “I don’t think the run rate would have come into the equation out there. The guys did well and they put their batsman under a lot of pressure. One thing I got to say is you got to take hats off to both fielding coaches. You will not see a better fielding display from two subcontinent teams. Obviously that Indian side has got some very good fielders but in one game of cricket, to see that level of fielding you got to give hats off to the players and also to the fielding coaches.”
Pothas, a former South African player, said both the T20I games were good for his young team.

“I wouldn’t say it is seven defeats,” Pothas said. “I would say five defeats and two good games. In the five ODIs, we didn’t compete. When I look at that, I’m most proud to see the way Pakistan celebrated after winning against that bunch of guys; it makes me very proud. I don’t see it is as seven, it is definitely five and two split.”

Sri Lanka had to field a relatively new-look side under Thisara Perera, their new skipper, after Upul Tharanga, the regular captain, withdrew along with Suranga Lakmal, Charama Kapugedara, Dustmantha Chameera, Nisroshan Dickwella and Lasith Malinga. Pothas said the attitude of new players was exemplary.

“This team arrived just three-four days ago and their attitude, efforts and their passion, I can’t fault it,” said Pothas. “They have set a great example on what it is like to play for your country and how valuable it is to play for your country. There are a bunch of guys I know are hurting and I couldn’t be more proud of them.

“Since I arrived here, I have been telling you that attitude towards your teammates tells us how much you care about them. These guys care for each other and fight for each other. That’s what was asked of them – to compete till the last.

“I don’t think I will ever struggle to keep these guys motivated. They are so grateful to be here and they play with a lot of smile on their faces. I don’t think it will matter what they were doing as long as they are playing for the country.”