Sharjah: Charith Asalanka and Bhanuka Rajapaksa, aided by dropped chances, take Sri Lanka to a comfortable win over Bangladesh in the Super-12 opener against Bangladesh at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Sunday.
Chasing a below-par 172 target, Sri Lanka suffered an early scare, losing opener Kusal Perera in the first over. However, a 69-run second wicket partnership between Pathum Nissanka and Asalanka put the Sri Lankans on the road to victory.
The match turned on its head when Shakib Al Hassan produced a stunning spell to strike a double blow, dismissing Nissanka and Avishka Fernando in a space of four deliveries. Wanindu Hasaranga also holed out at deep midwicket after needless assault six balls later.
With three wickets in two overs, the Tigers were smelling blood and moved in for the kill, but Rajapaksa’s counter-attack and Asalanka’s cautious aggression took them closer to the target with an 86-run partnership for the fifth wicket, which almost sealed the victory for Sri Lanka.
Needing 7 runs to win, Rajapaksa tried to steer Nasum Ahmed only to be bowled for a well-made 53 off 31 balls. Asalanka remained unbeaten on 80, his career highest in Twenty20 internationals. On a wicket that offered plenty of assistance to Sri Lankan pacers, Bangladesh’s Mustafizur Rahman lacked the fizz that would have aided Bangladesh.
Earlier, put in to bat, the Bangladesh batsmen failed to break the shackles of the Sri Lankan pacers on a perfect batting pitch to score 171 for 4 in 20 overs.
Bangladesh opener Mohammad Naim was instrumental in the team getting off to a good start with a patient 62 off 52 balls after weathering the Sri Lankan pace battery on a bouncy wicket, belying expectations of a low, slow turner.
The 22-year-old left-hander showed plenty of confidence and maturity to weather the early storm and play some crisp drives against a sustained Sri Lankan bowling.
A lot depended on the in-form Shakib, who failed for the first time in three innings. Another veteran Mushfiqur Rahim came to the party with a timely knock of 57 not out off 37 balls. Despite both the batsmen getting runs at a good pace, they failed to increase the tempo and hit the top gear, which would have given the Tigers another 15 runs that could have put more pressure on Sri Lanka.
But even those extra runs wouldn’t have been enough if Bangladesh maintain the same standards of fielding, where the dropped catches and misfielding allow the rivals the escape route from tough situations.