T20 World Cup 2022: Kusal Mendis hit an unbeaten fifty after the bowlers put up a clinical show to guide Sri Lanka to a dominating nine-wicket win over Ireland in a T20 World Cup super 12 match, here on Sunday. Asked to bowl, Sri Lankan bowlers, led by spin duo of Maheesh Theekshana (2/19) and Wanindu Hasaranga (2/25), produced an all-round effort to restrict Ireland to a below-par 128 for 8. They were right on the money as Ireland failed to build substantial partnerships.
Harry Tector was the top-scorer for Ireland, scoring 45 off 42 balls with two fours and one six, while Paul Stirling made 34 off 25 balls during which he struck four boundaries and two hits over the fence.
While Theekshana and Hasaranga shared four wickets between them, Lahiru Kumara (1/12), Dhananjaya de Silva (1/13), Chamika Karunaratne (1/29) and Binura Fernando (1/27) picked up a wicket each for the island nation. Chasing 129 to win, Sri Lanka, who had lost to minnows Namibia in their first match of the qualifying round, never looked in any sort of trouble as they overwhelmed the target, scoring 133 for 1 with five overs to spare.
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Kusal Mendis anchored the chase with a 43-ball unbeaten 63, while Charith Asalanka (31 not out off 22) and Dhananjaya de Silva (31 off 25) also got some runs under their belt.
Ireland, who are playing in their seventh straight World Cup, featured in the final round of the tournament only for the second time since their super 8 appearance in the 2009 edition in England. Mendis and de Silva got Sri Lanka off to flier in their modest chase of 129.
The duo went hammer and tongs against the Irish attack and stitched 63 off 50 balls for the opening wicket before de Silva edged a delivery from leg-spinner Gareth Delany to Lorcan Tucker behind the stumps while trying to cut the ball through the square.
With the asking rate under their control after the quick start, Mendis slowed down and mostly played in singles and twos with occasional boundaries in between in the company of Asalanka to keep Sri Lanka's chase on track. Delany was denied a second wicket when Ireland's Dockrell dropped Asalanka at deep midwicket in the 11th over with the ball just going through his hands.
Asalanka rode on his luck and struck two boundaries to remain unconquered in the company of Mendis, who decorated his knock with five fours and three sixes to hand Sri Lanka an easy win that should definitely boost their confidence ahead of crucial matches. Earlier opting to bat, Ireland lost skipper Andy Balbirnie early, bowled by Kumara as the batter went for an expansive shot over the keeper and short third-man fielder.
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Tucker (10) too perished, in somewhat, similar fashion, gloving one back on to his stumps while going across to target the vacant fine-leg area. Stirling, who had scored a match-winning 66 to guide Ireland to Super 12 stage, played in his usual aggressive style before Bhanuka Rajapaksa took a brilliant catch at deep extra cover to cut short the Irishman's innings.
Curtis Campher lasted for just four deliveries as Ireland slumped to 60 for 4 at the halfway mark of their innings.
Tector and Dockrell, who played despite being COVID positive but struggled, stitched 47 runs off 41 balls for the fifth wicket to take Ireland past the 100-run mark.
Dockrell's (14 off 16) struggle finally came to an end when Theekshana went through his defence in the 17th over. Hasanranga then joined the party and dismissed Delany (9) and Mark Adair in a span of three deliveries in the 19th over as Ireland batting continued to falter.