HOBART — Spinners Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana took two wickets each while opener Kusal Mendis smashed an unbeaten 68, his second consecutive fifty on the trot, as Sri Lanka secured a clinical nine-wicket win over Ireland in their Super 12 match of the Men’s T20 World Cup at the Bellerive Oval on Sunday.
After Hasaranga and Theekshana took two wickets each in a brilliant bowling performance as Sri Lanka restricted Ireland to a paltry 128/8 in 20 overs, Mendis and Dhananjaya de Silva (31) shared a 63-run opening stand, before the right-hander and Charith Asalanka (31 not out) finished off the chase with nine wickets in hand and 30 balls remaining.
In a modest chase, Mendis and de Silva smashed five boundaries to bring up the fifty of the opening stand in the power-play as Ireland’s bowling attack had an off day. The Irish had the breakthrough in the ninth over when Gareth Delany forced de Silva to cut a short and wide delivery, giving a top-edge straight to Lorcan Tucker.
They could have got another wicket if George Dockrell hadn’t dropped Asalanka’s catch running in from deep mid-wicket in the 11th over. Mendis then brought up his fifty with back-to-back fours off Delany and then gave the same treatment to Joshua Little. Fittingly, Mendis finished off the match with a brace of sixes off Simi Singh to lead Sri Lanka’s commanding chase.
Earlier, Sri Lanka, the 2014 T20 World Cup champions, were disciplined and economical in their bowling effort, especially their spin twins, Theekshana and Hasaranga. They began by using a lot of fast bowlers in the first half of Ireland’s innings, before unleashing the leg-spin plus off-spin duo of Hasaranga and Theekshana to stem their run-flow in the later half.
Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie fell cheaply, as pacer Lahiru Kumara disturbed his stumps while trying to go for an audacious ramp. Paul Stirling held one end and was smashing boundaries off Chamika Karunaratne as well as de Silva.
But his dismissal at the halfway stage, as Bhanuka Rajapaksa took a low catch at wide mid-off, letting Sri Lanka take full control of the innings of de Silva. With his wily variations, Theekshana began by rattling Tucker’s middle-stump in the fifth over.
With Curtis Campher and Dockrell falling cheaply, Harry Tector anchored one end by taking the attack to Karunaratne, Hasaranga and Theekshana. Just as he looked to go big, a mis-hit on a juicy full-toss off pacer Binura Fernando ended his stay at 45. Hasaranga took out Delany and Mark Adair in quick succession in the 19th over as Sri Lanka picked four wickets while conceding just 28 runs in the last five overs.
Brief scores: Ireland 128/8 in 20 overs (Harry Tector 45, Paul Stirling 34; Maheesh Theekshana 2/19, Wanindu Hasaranga 2/25) lost to Sri Lanka 133/1 in 15 overs (Kusal Mendis 68 not out, Charith Asalanka 31 not out; Gareth Delany 1/28) by nine wickets. — (IANS)