Dubai: Leg-spinner Karthik Meiyappan’s dream hat-trick spell went in vain as UAE were comprehensively outplayed by Sri Lanka in their second Group A match in Geelong on Tuesday.
Karthik, who celebrated his 22nd birthday 10 days ago, turned the match on its head and claimed a hat-trick to halt Sri Lanka’s progress and eventually restrict the Asian Cup winners to 152 for eight in 20 overs, but UAE were dismissed for 73, losing the match by 79 runs.
“My hat-trick has definitely hasn’t sunk in, especially against a Test-playing nation,” Meiyappan told the official broadcasters during the innings break. The leg-spinner went to narrate how he tried to keep the ball on the longer side of the field. “Dasun Shanaka’s wicket is special as I got the ball through the bat and pad to get him bowled,” he added, who’s three dismissals include Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Charith Asalanka and Shanaka.
Before the start of the World Cup former India all-rounder Robin Singh, Director of Cricket, Emirates Cricket Board, had said that Meiyappan will play a big role in Australia. And the coach was spot on in his assessment of the leg-spinner.
“These wickets are very different from the typical Australian pitches. I am hoping to see how Karthik will bowl, he should play a huge part in this tournament,” Robin added.
Sri Lankan opener Pathum Nissanka showed the way with a patient 74 off 60 balls, after Sri Lanka were put in to bat. Nissanka gave a clear indication on the behaviour of the pitch which was not ideally suited for quick runs, but overtime the set batters could milk the bowling. But the UAE batters, who were too cautious against the Netherlands in the opener, threw caution to win and tried to hit the top gear straight away, chasing a below-par target. Apart from opener Chirag Suri none of the top-order batters could reach double figures, not the best display against an inspired Sri Lankan attack that was aiming to improve their run rate and increase their qualifying chances.
Teenager Aayan Khan was the highest scorer with 19 followed by Junaid Siddique (18), who hit a towering 109-metre six, the longest in this tournament, before the UAE innings folded at 73.
“We thought it was a decent score, we could have done better in the first half, but kept them under check. Karthik is a special bowler. We play in 45 degrees in the UAE, so this is different, but we have to find a way. Our batsmen couldn’t get going, so we have to work on our skillset and come back better in the next match,” UAE skipper CP Rizwan said during the presentation ceremony.
Sri Lankan bowlers, led by pacer Dushmantha Chameera, kept the pressure on the UAE batters to give the Asia Cup champions the much-needed win.
“Really disappointed with the way we ended the innings (with the bat). We could have scored 180-190,” said Shanaka. “But it was important to get a win, we focused on a win only. He (Nissanka) was outstanding.”
Commerce graduate Meiyappan is one of the few players who have graduated from the junior ranks and was part of the set up for a long time and after making his debut in 2021. Meiyappan had also produced a match-winning performance against Kuwait in the recent Asia Cup qualifiers against Kuwait in Oman.
Fifth bowler to achieve the feat
Meiyappan becomes only the fifth bowler to claim a hat-trick in the Twenty20 World Cup. Hat-trick and UAE seems to have a special connection as Curtis Camper, Wanindu Hasaranga and Kagiso Rabada performed the feat during the 2021 Twenty20 World Cup in UAE, while Australian pacer Brett Lee was the first to achieve it.
“Playing for the UAE is a proud moment and a dream come true, but along with it comes a lot of responsibilities on the shoulders. Biggest advantage is that I have been part of the set-up for a long time, but not featured in too many games. That gives a lot of motivation to give your best for the team,” Meiyappan had told Gulf News before leaving for Australia. “My role is to take wickets for the team that’s what I do by bowling lots of dot balls and bringing the batters under pressure. The Austrlaian wickets offer more bounce and the grounds are much bigger, so if they go after me, then it gives me more chances to get wickets.”
The 21-year-old credited his two stints as net bowler with the developmental squads of the Indian Premier League teams, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Chennai Super Kings in 2020 and 2021, for making him a better bowler.
“A victory will be an icing on the cake,” Meiyappan had said, but unfortunately that was not to be.