Sri Lanka sprung a surprise by defeating Pakistan 2-0 in the Test series in the UAE, but their wretched year in ODIs continued. They have lost 21 of 26 ODIs this year and won just four, which is a win-loss ratio of 0.190. None of the top Test nations have had such a poor record, in terms of win-loss ratio, in any calendar year in which they have played 20 or more ODIs.
The previous worst win-loss ratio was West Indies' 0.266 (won 4, lost 15) in 2009. For Sri Lanka, the worst before this was in 1999, when they won 12 and lost 20. In 2017, Sri Lanka have suffered three 5-0 whitewashes in this awful year and also lost series against Zimbabwe and could manage only a draw against Bangladesh.
Much of Sri Lanka's troubles in ODIs are down to poor bowling. Opposition teams have scored 46.96 runs per wicket against Sri Lanka this year, which is the worst average for any team that has played 20 or more ODIs in a year. The next three places in this table are occupied by Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Sri Lanka's previous worst bowling average in a calendar year was 36.56 in 2015.
Sri Lanka have conceded eight totals of 300 or more and two others in the 290s this year. No other team has conceded as many 300-plus totals; the next highest on the list are India and England with six each.
Both spinners and fast bowlers had equally low numbers for Sri Lanka. Their pacers picked up 75 wickets at average of 48.94 while the spinners got 52 wickets at 48.28. Both the type of bowlers needed over 50 deliveries on an average to pick a wicket. To explain their miseries in simple, they could all out the oppositions only twice in the 26 matches and those teams were Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
Sri Lanka's premier fast bowler Lasith Malinga, who delivered the most overs for them this year, turned out to be their worst bowler. Bowling 103.5 overs in 13 matches, he could manage only 10 wickets at an average of 62.30 and economy of 6.00. In terms of average this is his worst ever year in ODIs and economy-wise his worst year this decade. Their best bowler has been Akila Dananjaya with 16 wickets at 30.25. Even his average is nowhere near the top-performing bowlers from other teams. Even he ranks 23rd among the 35 bowlers with 15 or more wickets this year, in terms of average.
Batsmen offer respite
Sri Lanka's batsmen have done relatively better. They have helped put up six 300-plus totals, third only to England (10) and India (8). They have also starred in a couple of big wins: among their four victories this year, two came in 300-plus chases. They first stunned India in the Champions Trophy at The Oval, chasing down 322 for the loss of just three wickets, and then chased down 311 against Zimbabwe in Hambantota. Apart from those two successful chases, they also came relatively close to South Africa's 367 in Cape Town in February, eventually falling short by 40 runs. In fact, Sri Lanka have 3-8 win-loss record in chases, compared to 1-13 when batting first, which also suggests that the bowling has been their weaker suit.
Three of Sri Lank's six 300-plus scores came when batting first, but they lost all matches, including two home games against Zimbabwe. Before this year, a 300-plus target had never been successfully chased in Sri Lanka, but Zimbabwe managed it in Galle, and also overhauled a revised target of 219 in 31 overs after Sri Lanka scored 300 in Hambantota. Those chases are another damning indictment of Sri Lanka's bowlers this year.
Overall, their batting average of 27.49 isn't great: only West Indies and Zimbabwe have done worse, among the top-10 teams. But their bowling average is 1.70 times worse than their batting average. The difference between runs per wicket scored and conceded is a staggering 17.42, which is the second-highest for any team playing 20 or more ODIs in a year.
In terms of run rates, Sri Lanka have scored at 5.06 an over but conceded 5.87, a difference of 0.81 runs per over. The difference in their batting and bowling run rates is also the worst among all teams in a year playing 20-plus ODIs, excluding Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Their scoring rate is better only than West Indies among top-10 sides.
Sri Lanka's top-two run-getters this year have been their openers - Upul Tharanga (860 runs at 47.77) and Niroshan Dickwella (770 runs at 33.47). Their openers hit five centuries - the joint second-most among all teams. However, their average is relatively low compared to other teams. Each of the top-eight ranked teams have at least one batsman who scored 500-plus runs at average of 50-plus, except for Sri Lanka.
Apart from the openers, the others in the order below disappointed. Their batsmen between No. 3 and 6 positions have averaged 30.25, the worst among all the top-eight teams. Among 59 players to have batted 10 or more innings in top-six positions this year, the only two batsmen to average less than 20 are from Sri Lanka and they batted in the middle order: Dinesh Chandimal (18.21) and Milinda Siriwardana (18.45). Another disappointment has been Kusal Mendis' form. He had hit five fifty-plus scores in his first 12 innings this year and then no such score in last 10 innings. He has six scores between 0 and 2 in last 10 innings.