A brilliant four-wicket haul by Maheesh Theekshana and an unbeaten hundred by Pathum Nissanka secured Sri Lanka a place in the 2023 Men’s ODI World Cup with a comprehensive nine-wicket win over Zimbabwe in Super Six stage of the qualifying tournament at Queen’s Sports Club on Sunday.
In the morning, after electing to bowl first, Sri Lanka maintained their clean slate of not conceding a single total in excess of 200 in the ongoing tournament. Off-spinner Theekshana shone with 4-25 while left-arm pacer Dilshan Madushanka took 3-15 in his fiery opening spell as Zimbabwe were bowled out for just 165.
Chasing a modest 166, Nissanka led the way by hitting 14 fours in his unbeaten 101 off 102 balls and got some support from Dimuth Karunaratne (30) and Kusal Mendis (25 not out) to get Sri Lanka over the line with nine wickets in hand and 101 balls to spare.
Apart from the win consolidating their place at the top of the Super Six table, Sri Lanka, the 1996 World Cup winner, have ensured that they’ll remain among the top two sides at the end of the stage, thus sealing their qualification for the ODI World Cup to be played in India from October 5 to November 19.
For the last remaining spot in the ODI World Cup, Zimbabwe must win their Super Six match against Scotland at the same venue on Tuesday to seal their qualification for the 10-team mega event. For Sunday’s game, there were arrangements made for fan parks in the capital city of Harare to enjoy the action.
But the crowds at the stadium in Bulawayo and fan parks in Harare were quietened as Zimbabwe lost their top-order in the first 10 overs. Madushanka wreaked havoc by having Joylord Gumbie nick to second slip, Wesley Madhevere miscuing pull to mid-off and skipper Craig Ervine nicking one behind the stumps in the seventh over.
Sri Lanka could have got the in-form Sean Williams off Madushanka’s bowling in the ninth over as Matheesha Pathirana shelled a straightforward chance at fine leg. Williams and Sikandar Raza soaked in the pressure and upped the scoring rate in their crucial 68-run partnership.
Raza, in particular, went for a number of exquisite strokes after a conservative start. But Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka gave Sri Lanka an opening as Raza hooked to the long leg in the 20th over. Ryan Burl and Williams unleashed a series of brutal hits in the upcoming overs.
Veteran Williams also brought up his fifty in this period of play, his fifth fifty-plus score in the competition. But Williams ran out of luck in the 23rd over, when he was cleaned up by Theekshana for 56. Though Zimbabwe were able to keep Wanindu Hasaranga at bay, they had no answers to questions posed by turn and accuracy from Theekshana.
The off-spinner also accounted for Burl in the 25th over to put Sri Lanka on top. Sri Lanka bowlers didn’t let go of the pressure on Zimbabwe and continued to pick wickets, with Pathirana taking out the last three wickets as the hosts’ tailenders could only add 35 runs from the mid-innings mark.
In reply, Sri Lanka faced little difficulties in their chase. The only real chance for Zimbabwe in defending a small total was a Karunaratne flick off Richard Ngarava toward mid-wicket, which was shelled by Ervine.
Nissanka looked in a particularly aggressive mood and hit eight fours on the way to reaching fifty, punishing any loose deliveries. The duo helped Sri Lanka reach the 100-run mark in the 19th over. Zimbabwe fans had something to cheer about with Karunaratne’s wicket taken by Ngarava.
But it was a case of too little and too late, as Sri Lanka overhauled the Zimbabwe total in the 34th over, as Nissanka brought up his second ODI hundred by walloping a full toss from Wellington Masakadza over mid-wicket for four.
Zimbabwe 165 in 32.2 overs (Sean Williams 56, Sikandar Raza 31; Maheesh Theekshana 4-25, Dilshan Madushanka 3-15) lost to Sri Lanka 169/1 in 33.1 overs (Pathum Nissanka 101 not out, Dimuth Karunaratne 30; Richard Ngarava 1-35) by nine wickets
Press Release, Source: IANS