Kusal Mendis plays a shot over the boundary line for six runs to win the match. AFP
Sri Lanka cruised to a nine-wicket victory with five overs to spare against Ireland in both teams’ Twenty20 World Cup Super 12 opener on Sunday.
After Ireland had won the toss and chose to bat first in overcast and wintry conditions at Bellerive Oval, Sri Lanka’s bowlers made regular breakthroughs to restrict the Irish to 128-8 after its 20 overs.
Chasing 129 for victory never proved a difficult challenge for Sri Lanka, which chased down the below-par target in 15 overs to claim victory.
Kusal Mendis top scored with 68 off 43 balls, with five boundaries and three sixes, including hitting a six to win the match off the final ball of the 15th over.
“(Our) bowlers did really well, Meendis said. “The total was low but I played my natural game. My team asked me to play the first six overs and then contribute till the 10th over and I went for fours and sixes.”
Sri Lanka raced to 50 without loss at the end of their 6-over power play with Mendis and Dhananjaya de Silva removed any nervousness Sri Lanka may have had chasing a low target.
Spinner Gareth Delaney had Dhananjaya caught behind for 31 in the ninth over. But that was a brief respite as Charith Asalanka made a brisk 31 off 22 balls as part of a 70-run partnership with Mendis to close-out an impressive victory for Sri Lanka.
Earlier, Paul Stirling (34 )and Harry Tector (45) top scored for Ireland and were the only two batters to get some momentum in their innings as too many of their teammates played poor shots and gave their wickets away cheaply to prevent a more competitive total being reached.
Captain Andrew Balbirnie (one) and Locran Tucker (10), two of Ireland’s heroes in a famous win against two-time champions the West Indies on Friday to qualify for the Super 12 stage, were both bowled around their legs shuffling across the crease.
Ireland’s innings never really recovered from that slow start as spinners Maheesh Theekshana (2-19 from four overs) and Wanindu Hasaranga (2-25 from four overs) took two wickets apiece to keep Sri Lanka in control.
Theekshana bowled Lorcan Tucker inside the powerplay overs before returning late to remove George Dockrell and break a 47-run partnership between Dockrell and Harry Tector, who top scored with 45 from 42.
“This is the kind of cricket we want to play,” Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka said. “We knew the spinners would play a major role in this game.”
“Death bowling is our key area and the start is important, we did that really good. We want to continue with that confidence.”
Both teams qualified for the Super 12 stage through a dramatic qualifying round which was played over 6 days.
Ireland crushed two-time defending champion the West Indies by nine wickets on Friday to clinch its spot in Group 1 of the second stage behind Zimbabwe.
Sri Lanka, which won its maiden Twenty20 World Cup in 2014, had a poor start to its qualifying round losing to Namibia, but responded with victories over the United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands to stay alive in the tournament.
Sri Lanka and Ireland are joined by Australia, New Zealand, England and Afghanistan in Group 1 for the second round. New Zealand thrashed defending champion Australia by 89 runs, and England eased past Afghanistan by five wickets on Saturday to commence the Super 12 stage.
India won the toss and chose to bowl first against pakistan in a blockbuster night match at a sold out Melbourne Cricket Ground in Sunday’s second game.