Recent Match Report – Sri Lanka vs Ireland 8th Match, First Round Group A 2021/22

Recent Match Report – Sri Lanka vs Ireland 8th Match, First Round Group A 2021/22



Ireland now face Namibia, and the winner will progress to the next round of the World Cup

Sri Lanka 171 for 7 (Hasaranga 71, Nissanka 61, Little 4-23) beat Ireland 101 all out (Balbirnie 41, Theekshana 3-17) by 70 runs

For the second game in a row, Sri Lanka survived an early scare to record a commanding win. This time, Ireland were at the receiving end, Andrew Balbirnie’s men thumped by 70 runs as Sri Lanka guaranteed safe passage to the Super 12s. A superb all-round performance by Wanindu Hasaranga, who smashed 71 off 40 balls and doubled with figures of 4-0-12-1, rescued his side from the perilous position of 8 for 3, first carrying them to 171 before helping skittle Ireland out for 101.
For Sri Lanka, this was a comprehensive performance, if not quite as complete as Mickey Arthur and the coaching staff will have wished for. The problems with the top order persist, though Hasaranga’s knock – alongside a classy 47-ball 61 from Pathum Nissanka – will go some way towards alleviating concerns around the quality of Sri Lanka’s batting. Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan fielding wasn’t quite as clinical as a side at their level might demand, but against a lacklustre Ireland batting performance, it proved more than enough.

Ireland began to bleed wickets right from the outset of the chase, and the big innings they required from someone like Paul Stirling never materialised. Stirling and Kevin O’Brien both fell cheaply, and any resistance of not came from a 53-run fourth wicket partnership between skipper Balbirnie and Curtis Campher. However, with the asking rate rising, all they managed to do was rebuild, and once the stand was broken, Sri Lanka zipped through the last seven wickets for 16 runs.

Ireland will need to shake off the disappointment from a day that began so brightly for them, and turn their attention towards their final game this round, a knockout against the Namibia, with the victor joining Sri Lanka in the Super 12.

Irish start
For all that happened after it, it’s easy to forget the perfect start Ireland enjoyed to this game. Sri Lanka’s top three struggled against Namibia, but what happened here against the Irish was a downright capitulation. Stirling opened the bowling, and right at the outset, had Kusal Perera hole out to George Dockrell at cover point, who took a splendid catch diving forward.

That was followed by an over for the ages from Josh Little – six balls that would not have looked out of place on a green-top wicket with the red ball. Coming in over the wicket and shaping it back into the right-handers, he knocked back Dinesh Chandimal and Avishka Fernando’s off stump off successive deliveries, combining metronomic accuracy with seam movement and swing. It reduced Sri Lanka to three-down with less than 10 on the board, and at that stage, The Irish were buoyant. It would require a Herculean effort for Sri Lanka to wrest back control, and that’s what the fourth-wicket stand provided.

Hasaranga, Nissanka flay Ireland
Hasaranga tends not to bat as high as No. 5, but with Sri Lanka having lost wickets in a heap and needing to get a move on, they needed to take a punt. That’s what Hasaranga represented when he walked out to bat, a low-value, high-impact wicket.

He got Sri Lanka on their way with a classical back-foot drive through the offside, and all of a sudden, the momentum shifted. Nissanka and Hasaranga smacked Mark Adair for another three fours next over, before Hasaranga clobbered Simi Singh for four successive boundaries to round out the powerplay. They were all low-risk, high-class cricket shots, and got Sri Lanka back into a position of superiority.

With the powerplay over, the two transitioned masterfully into the next passage of play. There were regular ones and twos punctuated with the odd boundary, and whenever Ireland’s fielding let them down, the batters were there to make them pay. Ireland’s frustrations began to increase as last game’s hero Campher went for plenty in his spell, unaware to summon the magic of that four-wicket spell against the Netherlands. But then again, in Hasaranga and Nissanka, they were up against an opposition in a different league to anything Netherlands had thrown up against them.

By the time the partnership was broken, the duo had added 133 in 13.4 overs, the fourth wicket partnership accounting for nearly 80% of all runs scored.

Sri Lankan spin suffocation
Well, this bit was predictable, wasn’t it? With runs on the board, Sri Lanka unleashed their myriad of spin-bowling options, this time Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana the most potent ones. The combination of flippers, wrong’uns, conventional offspin and round-arm balls with variable bounce kept the Irish batters guessing. With all thoughts focused firmly on survival, the asking rate only ever went up. Stirling tried to force the issue early on and paid for it with his wicket, Theekshana causing him to hole out to fine leg. Campher and Neil Rock also fell to his wile later in the innings. Hasaranga, meanwhile, beat Gareth Delany all ends up, as one that kept low clattered into the hapless batter’s middle stump.
What was perhaps less predictable is the role the pace battery played in keeping the Irish at bay. Lahiru Kumara and Dushmantha Chameera were sensation in the early overs, the speed gun consistently showing they were clocking speeds in the high 140s. The yorkers were toe-crushing, the short balls menacing and the slower ones unpredictable. With Sri Lanka alternating between express pace and unorthodox spin, Ireland were being stifled out of the contest.

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000


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