Leeds: Sri Lankan's shock win over England should change things for the better, feels batting great Mahela Jayawardene, after a run of matches in which they seemed to have "played with a little bit of fear".
Defending a relatively modest target of 233, Sri Lanka bowled out favourites England for 212 for a 20-run win at the Headingley on Friday.
"I hope this game will give Sri Lanka a lot of confidence in this ICC Men's Cricket World Cup. They have beaten one of the best teams in the world, and they need to believe in themselves," Jayawardene wrote in his column for the ICC.
"At times it feels like they have played with a little bit of fear and have not been able to really express themselves. This win should change that."
The former skipper praised Lasith Malinga's match-winning spells, during which he picked up four big English wickets.
"It's not about the six pack, it's about the skill and Lasith Malinga showed that in spades in Sri Lanka's win over England.
"He has done it so many times for Sri Lanka over the years but it was great to see him at his best," Jayawardene said.
The Lankans needed a Malinga special and the veteran obliged the team with his fine exhibition of fast bowling.
"He was on a mission with the new ball, taking two crucial early wickets which Sri Lanka needed to defend a total like 232.
"Then when Joe Root looked like he was playing one of those innings where he just takes the game away from you, Dimuth Karunaratne turned to Mali and threw him the ball. He told him that he needed him and Mali delivered," said Jayawardene.
"Big players perform in big games and that is what he did, removing Root and then Jos Buttler who could have won the game for England as well."
The batting legend also lavished praise on the Lankan skipper.
"I was really impressed with Dimuth's captaincy, trusting his players, bringing on the off-spinner Dhananjaya de Silva at an important time and getting rewarded for that.
"Even after they had batted, I felt that it was a competitive total because the wicket was fairly slow."
He was happy to see Angelo Mathews among the runs.
"It was great to see Angelo Mathews scoring some runs. He still isn't quite in top form and you could tell that he really needed a score.
"At times I wanted him to be more aggressive, but with wickets falling around him, he produced a great innings and was the rock of that batting line-up. A word also for Avishka Fernando. His performance should give Sri Lankan fans a lot of hope for the future."
Jayawardene said the unexpected result will open up the tournament.
"It's a great win for Sri Lanka, but also for the World Cup and it opens things up a little.
"The top four so far have a lot of matches against each other coming up, so they will inevitably drop some points. You look at New Zealand, Australia and England who all have to play each other which does make it interesting.
"That leaves Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the West Indies with a chance to close the gap if they can pick up a few more wins.
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He is hoping to open the batting along with Quinton de Kock in the T20 World Cup beginning on Sunday in Oman and the UAE.
Sri Lanka have been forced to play in Round 1 of T20 World Cup 2021 as they were outside the top eight when qualifying was decided.
Following a breakthrough in talks with Cricket Australia, the England and Wales Cricket Board on Friday said they had given "conditional approval" for the tour to go ahead.