A wonderful counter-attack by Wanindu Hasaranga (71 off 47 balls) and Pethum Nissanka (61 off 47 balls) followed by a clinical bowling performance propelled Sri Lanka to secure a dominant 70-run win over Ireland in in a Group A match of Round 1 in the ICC men's T20 World Cup at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium here on Wednesday.
The win also means that the 2014 champions have all but confirmed their spot in the Super 12 stage of the tournament. The victory was set up by half-centuries from Hasaranga and Nissanka sharing a stand of 123 runs for the fourth wicket.
The duo lifted Sri Lanka from 8/3 in the first 10 balls to 171/7 in 20 overs. In reply, Ireland was all out for 101 in 18.3 overs as the Sri Lanka pacers struck early before the spinners stemmed the run-flow in middle overs as Ireland lost their last seven wickets for just 16 runs.
Chasing 172, Ireland lost openers Kevin O'Brien (5) and Paul Stirling (7) in 2.3 overs. While O'Brien top-edged to short fine leg off Chamika Karunaratne in the first over, Maheesh Theekshana dismissed Stirling in a similar manner in the third over. Two overs later, Gareth Delany was bowled by a googly from Wanindu Hasaranga.
Curtis Campher and Andy Balbirnie shared a stand of 53 runs for the fourth wicket before the former was clean bowled by Theekshana in the 13th over.
That started the downfall of Ireland as Harry Tector (3), Neil Rock (1) and Mark Adair (2) fell in quick succession. With Balbirnie (41) slicing to point off Lahiru Kumara in the 16th over, the writing was clear on the wall for Ireland. Karunaratne and Dushmantha Chameera took the remaining wickets to secure Sri Lanka's second win of the tournament.
Earlier, Sri Lanka lost Kusal Perera without troubling the scorers on the second ball of the innings. In the next over, pacer Joshua Little bowled Dinesh Chandimal (6) and Avishka Fernando on back-to-back deliveries to put Sri Lanka in deep trouble at 8 for three in 1.4 overs.
From there, Hasaranga and Nissanka staged an excellent fightback for Sri Lanka, stitching a 123-run partnership in 82 balls. Hasaranga was more aggressive of the two, smashing off-spinner Simi Singh for four consecutive boundaries in the final over of power-play. Their counter-attack coupled with exquisite shots rattled Ireland, who resorted to bowling wider lines and got dispatched for runs.
Hasaranga brought up his maiden T20I half-century in 38 balls with a brace off Craig Young in the 13th over. Nissanka brought up his half-century in the 16th over. But on the very next ball, a visibly exhausted Hasaranga sliced to short third man off Mark Adair.
Though Bhanuka Rajapaksa (1) and Karunaratne (2) fell cheaply, Nissanka struck two more boundaries before toe-ending behind to the keeper to become Little's fourth scalp of the day. Dasun Shanaka then struck a six and four on the last two balls of the innings to remain unbeaten on 21 off just 11 balls, taking Sri Lanka beyond 170.
Brief Scores: Sri Lanka 171/7 in 20 overs (Wanindu Hasaranga 71, Pethum Nissanka 61, Josh Little 4/23, Mark Adair 2/35) against Ireland 101 all out (Andy Balbirnie 41, Curtis Campher 24, Maheesh Theekshana 3/17, Lahiru Kumara 2/22) by 70 runs.