Sri Lanka boost NRR with crushing victory
Sri Lanka crushed international minnows Canada with embarrassing ease at Paarl on Wednesday, completing a nine-wicket win inside two hours without the majority of their players even breaking into a sweat.
Skipper Sanath Jayasuriya had promised beforehand that his players would retain their focus against the amateurs, who had pulled off a shock victory against Bangladesh, but he could scarcely have expected such a clinical performance.
New-ball bowlers Prabath Nissanka and Chaminda Vaas shared seven wickets as Canada were bowled out for a miserable 36, the lowest-ever score in a one-day International, surpassing the 38 scored by Zimbabwe against Sri Lanka at the Sinhalese Sports Club in 2001.
No Canadian player managed to post a two-figure score and the match was comfortably the shortest in World Cup history, lasting a total of 23.2 overs compared to the 41.4 overs West Indies required to beat Scotland in 1999.
Marvan Atapattu, renowned more for steady accumulation than adventure, then launched into the Canadian bowling, scorching 24 runs off 14 balls and ensuring the victory target was reached in just 4.4 overs.
After the West Indies' abandoned game against Bangladesh last night, the emphatic conclusion would have been welcomed by a management team anxious that their World Cup ambitions are not blown off course by poor weather.
Moreover, apart from the satisfaction of bagging four valuable points, the speed with which victory was achieved provided a boost to Sri Lanka's Net Run Rate (NRR), lifting it to a towering 3.17.
The NRR will be irrelevant if Sri Lanka can win against either the West Indies or South Africa, but if they do slip up, it provides a safety net and, barring heavy defeats, should now ensure their progression into the Super Six.
Speaking afterwards, Jayasuriya was delighted. "We wanted to get this match over as quickly as possible and I thought both Prabath (Nissanka) and Chaminda (Vaas) bowled excellently this morning."
Indeed they did. Vaas swung the white ball dangerously and maintained an impeccable line, while Man of the Match Nissanka troubled the Canadians with pace, bounce and seam movement, returning career-best figures of four for 12.
Vaas's three wickets made him the tournament's leading wicket-taker with nine victims to his name and provided further evidence that his confidence has fully returned after difficult tours to England and South Africa last year.
But Nissanka's good rhythm and control was perhaps the biggest positive of the day for the Sri Lankans, suggesting that he can now provide reliable cover for the injured Pulasthi Gunaratne.
It was Nissanka who started the Canadian freefall in the second over as he cut a good-length delivery back between John Davison's (0) bat and pad.
Former Guyana batsman Fazil Sattaur (0) looked completely at odds against Vaas' inswing and could have been adjudged lbw four balls before he was given his final marching orders.
Vaas went on to have Desmond Chumney caught at the wicket and leading batsman Ian Bilcliff trapped lbw in consecutive overs.
When Nissanka grabbed two wickets in two balls to dismiss NA de Groot and Ishwar Maraj, the Canadians were in complete disarray on 12 for six.
Joseph Harris (9), the skipper, offered a flicker of hope with the brace of boundaries before trampling on his stumps as he tried to pull a short delivery.
Dilhara Fernando took the wickets of Sanjayan Thuraisingam (6) and wicket-keeper Ashish Bagai (6) before Muttiah Muralitharan sealed the world record by clean-bowling Austin Codrington (0).
By this stage, a Sri Lanka victory was never in doubt, and the only question being how quickly victory could be achieved.
In the event, Sri Lanka just failed to break their own 4.2-over record and had to settle for it being the second-fastest run-chase in history.
Sanath Jayasuriya (9) was the only casualty as he slogged across the line, gifting Sri Lankan-born Thuraisingam a famous scalp.
Sri Lanka now travel to Nairobi, where they will play Kenya on Monday.