It was over as quickly as it started lightning fast with Sri Lanka sweeping to an emphatic 8-wicket triumph over the Netherlands with 77 balls to spare in their final Group A qualifying round match dismissing the Netherlands in next to no time for 44 in just 10 overs and racing to 48 for 2 in 7.1 overs at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Friday.
The Netherlands, put into bat by Sri Lankan captain Dasun Shanaka on winning the toss, were shot out by a Sri Lankan attack that was firing on all cylinders with the threesome of Player of the Match Lahiru Kumara 3 wickets for 7 from 3 overs, Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva 3 for 9 and Maheesh Theeksahana 2 for 3 combining in making short shrift of the comparatively less fancied Dutch team.
If the tournament run up had seen some of the frontline batsmen and bowlers gradually find a spring in their step, Sri Lanka’s much looked to trump card opening batsman Kusal Janith Perera, who headed straight into the tournament starters short of match practice following an elbow injury layback, leading the way with a 24-ball unbeaten 33 decked with 6 boundaries was indeed the perfect rounding for the Lankan camp ahead of the bigger battles going into the next Super 12 stage. The win gave the former champions an unassailable lead in Group A with 6 points from three straight wins having also disposed of Namibia and Ireland having entered the tournament for the first time in the seven world cups having to qualify to make it to the Super 12 Stage. The victory surge was though not without the starter headache that has been an Achilles heel in the Lankan frontline batting with Pathum Nissanka, who starred in the win against Ireland a day ago with a solid 61, falling for a fifth ball duck and Charith Asalanka, who replaced Dinesh Chandimal in the pivotal No.3 slot, exiting for 6 off 10 deliveries.
For a side that had limped into the foray on a virtual scratch record of a flagging T20 image in over an year, the largely young blend of new blood of a side with a handful of experienced players Sri Lanka’s gallop to the next round in joining the top eight teams that had automatically qualified did imbibe a clinical thrust of a side beginning to flourish on all-round flair with all three departments of the batting bowling and fielding on shine. That they overcame less fancied opposition in their group and will head into more serious business against the toughest as they come will be the marshaling challenge the Lankan camp will have to work their game plans in pursuit of going the distance in the showpiece of cricket’s fast and furious paced format.
Netherlands 44 (10 Overs) RR: 4.39
(Colin Ackermann 11, Lahiru Kumara 3/7, Wanindu Hasaranga 3/9, Maheesh Theekshana 2/3)
Sri Lanka 45/2 (7.1 Overs) RR: 6.27 PN 0 5, CAs 6 10,
(Kusal Janith Perera n.o. 33 24 6 0, Avishka Fernando n.o. 2