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Pathum Nissanka meets the test of time with verve vs. Ireland

Ever since breaking into international cricket decorating himself in an elite hall of fame as the first Sri Lankan batsman to score a debut century overseas against the West Indies in putting his head down in a sheet anchor role, Pathum Nissanka’s game underwent a conspicuous change. It saw a batsman ready to play a more subdued role in a learning curve the wiser by his record breaking feat. So much so that Pathum Nissanka, who was discovered to the game with a penchant to go on the attack as an opening batsman from down South Galle who made his mark from Isipathana Vidyalaya, had cut off the frills following his scaling of the record debut summit ton in the high road of test cricket. In the wake of that feat there was an evident lull in his run fronting. What is more, in ODI cricket that forceful exuberance in his stroke play that earned him national recognition as a potential youth player with the bat seemed a missing link. The selector faith placed in the right-hander in earmarking him as a future prospect in the fast paced instant cricket in Sri Lanka’s most recent tours of Bangladesh and England and the home tour versus the South Africans did not materialise. Put in a nutshell, the experimentation as a future ODI and T20 opener did not bear the desired results with Pathum Nissanka not living up to expectations. A string of low scores did put him out of the equation. He would pop in and out but was just an also ran contender who fell on the wayside.

Came the run up preparations to the  ICC T20 World Cup and Pathum Nissanka’s name was among the provisional squad more on his past laurels as a punishing opening batsman in the lower rungs of national representation. The odd scores before his name saw Pathum Nissanka as a batsman who simply made up the numbers and not one who really impressed with the bat. But the selector faith in the youngster continued as the opening batsman once again figured in the run up games to the world cup. In that experimentation for a dependable opening batsman Nissanka’s name did figure once again with regular opener Kusal Janith Perera recuperating from injury and the opening berths not really plugged for literally T20 cricket’s big show. In that experimentation there he was striking a productive 76 in the win over Papua New Guinea in the warm up game. With other names failing to justify their presence, that innings did prove to be yardstick for his captain and tour management to go with. And there was Pathum Nissanka on his way come the second Group A qualifying encounter versus Ireland playing the innings of his life. That his best came out during a crisis with Sri Lanka losing 3 wickets for 8 runs in fronting what proved to be a match winning knock of 61 was decisive. As in his debut test match record ton against the West Indies, Pathum Nissanka had come to the party in make or break time for Sri Lanka as he figured in that whirlwind 123-run fourth wicket partnership with Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva that was the turning point to Sri Lanka saving the day and coming out winners  over a threatening Ireland in sweeping into the Super 12 stage of the seventh edition of the T20 world cup.

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