Charith Asalanka crash landed from virtual oblivion to spoil Bangladesh’s party when it looked like they had it wrapped up with Sri Lanka reduced to 4 for 79 after 9.4 overs in all havoc of breathtaking unbeaten 49-ball 80 to lift his side to a heart stopping 5 wicket triumph with 7 balls to spare in their first showdown of the Super 12 match at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
In a typical Sunday showmanship the 24-year old left-hander arrived to man a hitherto shaky pivotal No.3 slot following a long experimentation having himself being tried out and when it looked the loose area in the Lankan frontline batting line-up to hammer the daylights out of an ominous Bangladesh outfit that had the Sri Lankans in all sorts of trouble having mounted a formidable 171 for 4 off 20 overs after being put into bat. Asalanka pounded 5 sixes and 5 boundaries fronting a decisive assault together with Bhanuka Rajapaksa who clouted 53 off 31 inclusive of 3 sixes and 3 boundaries in sharing in a 86-run fifth wicket partnership off 52 balls as they chased a 93-run deficit when Rajapaksa fell with the job almost done with 7 needed with 10 deliveries left.
If the lusty hammering dazzle by the Sri Lankan pair that took Sri Lanka out of the depths of uncertainty to the Everest of triumph in the crunch challenging of Super 12 showdown phase saw young Asalanka, the former national Youth Captain and Richmond College captain insulate himself in the echelons of a new star born for his country in the demanding T20 format having not so long ago done so in the ODI firmament, it also set out Bhanuka Rajapaksa, the former Royal College captain in the realms of a mighty willow wielder who had been questing for that ultimate anointment of delivering for his country on the laurels of a truly brilliant half century at the highest level of international cricket. The day was rounded off in style with the mercurial skipper Dasun Shanaka joining Asalanka in Sri Lanka’s final victory spurt that would not have been but for the right upfront manning by the courageous young opener Pathum Nissanka who struck 24 off 21 with a six and boundary in a crucial role of consolidating the early loss of Kusal janith Perera who was bowled for a third ball 1 by Nasun Ahmed. Importantly Nissanka played a passive early role making just 6 off 9 creating the leverage for Asalanka to go hammer and tong in signaling the side’s intentions of sounding the victory post with their second wicket alliance realising an invaluable 69 runs off 45 deliveries. Fiollowing his dismissal when Shakib Al Hasan disturbed his stumps, that Sri Lanka’s next two batters Avishka Fernando, a third ball duck bowled by Al Hasan, and Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva – gone for 6 off 5 to Mohammad Saifuddin offering a catch – both fell cheaply put the equation back on square one with 4 gone for 79 with did undo the good work of the Nissanka-Asalanka repair work.
Enter the explosive Bhanuka Rajapaksa, who does imbibe a dose of the Vivian Richards way of bloodshot stroke play not a respecter of bowlers as he joined Charith Asalanka in a partnership of their lives as the pair went the belligerent sixes, fours settlement of the issue where one false stroke would have cost their side the game.
Dasun Shanaka’s gamble of putting the opposition into bat on the luck of the coin in a flashback to the Arjuna Ranatunga 1995-96 world cup winning formula once again paid, but not before Bangladesh had caused concern to the Lankan camp in posting a daunting target. It revolved around opener Mohammad Naim’s 52-ball 62 inclusive of 6 boundaries and Mushfiqur Rahim’s unbeaten 57 off 37 comprising 5 boundaries and 2 sixes in that handsome total of 171 for just 4 wickets in an all-batting showdown from which the Lankans proved to be the classier in pocketing a crucial 2 points in a thrust to their cup campaign. Stay to the end he did in that super role that crowned Charith Asalanka as the Player of the Match.
Bangladesh 171/4 (20 Overs) RR: 8.55
(Mushfiqur Rahim’s unbeaten 57, Mohammad Naim’s 52)
Sri Lanka 172/5 (18.5 Overs) RR: 9.13
(Charith Asalanka n.o. 80, Bhanuka Rajapaksa 53, Pathum Nissanka 24, Dasun Shanaka n.o. 1, Shakib Al Hasan 2/17, Nasun Ahmed 2/29)