Srinagar: After initial jitters, Sri Lanka is showing that it is one of the strong contender for the T20 World Cup 2022 title, starting its Super 12 campaign with an impressive nine-wicket triumph over a disappointing Ireland in Hobart on Sunday.
There were many fears for Sri Lanka when they were thrashed by Namibia in the opening match of the First Round, but the reigning Asia Cup champions are slowly gathering some momentum.
While the nine-wicket victory over Ireland was expected by most, the way the island nation went about it was ultra-impressive as they clinically dispatched of their opponents in clinical style with plenty of improvement to come.
Star spinner Wanindu Hasaranga (2/25) took his eighth and ninth scalps of the tournament thus far and he was well supported by fellow spinner Maheesh Theekshana (2/19), who was thrust into the bowling crease during Ireland’s batting Powerplay.
Not only did Sri Lanka take wickets at regular intervals, but they also kept the run rate down as Ireland’s batters were unable to gather much momentum and were restricted to 128/8 from their 20 overs.
Sri Lanka’s run chase was a mere formality, with in-form opener Kusal Mendis (68 from 43 balls) continuing his excellent tournament thus far with another half-century.
Much of the good Ireland managed from eye-catching victories over Scotland and the West Indies was undone against Sri Lanka, with the European side unable to back-up their strong showings from the First Round.
Veteran opener Paul Stirling (34 from 25 balls) got a handful of big shots away early, but young gun Harry Tector (45 off 42) was the only other player to look assured at the crease.
Their bowling didn’t fare much better, with spinner Gareth Delany (1/28) the only wicket-taker as Ireland started their Super 12 campaign in disappointing style.
The road ahead
While Sri Lanka will be buoyed by their easy victory, the good news for them is they still have plenty of improvement left in them and can play much better.
First-choice opener Pathum Nissanka missed the clash against Ireland due to a groin injury, while the rest of their batting line-up – outside of Mendis – are yet to really hit their straps.
There is still four more matches Sri Lanka must negotiate during the Super 12 if they are to reach the semis, with their next test coming in Perth on Tuesday against tournament hosts Australia.
Ireland have two full days to lick their wounds and recover, with a difficult match-up against England their next assignment at the MCG on Wednesday.
Sri Lanka: Kusal Mendis (wk), Dhananjaya de Silva, Charith Asalanka, Ashen Bandara, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Dasun Shanaka (c), Wanindu Hasaranga, Chamika Karunaratne, Maheesh Theekshana, Binura Fernando, Lahiru Kumara.
Ireland: Paul Stirling, Andrew Balbirnie (c), Lorcan Tucker (wk), Harry Tector, Curtis Campher, George Dockrell, Gareth Delany, Mark Adair, Simi Singh, Barry McCarthy, Joshua Little