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Alan Gardner at Hove
May 18, 2014
Sri Lankans 128 for 0 (Dilshan 73*, Vithanage 52*) beat Sussex 126 for 7 (Machan 63, Perera 2-13) by 10 wickets
With the sun shining on the UK's hottest weekend of the year so far, Sri Lanka scorched to a ten-wicket win in less than half the allotted overs to complete their warm-up matches ahead of the limited-overs series against England in dashing style. Tillakaratne Dilshan slashed and burned his way to an 18-ball half-century, with Kithuruwan Vithanage only a little more circumspect in his fifty from 22. No Sussex bowler managed to go at less than ten an over as 65 balls were left unbowled.
Needing to score at little more than a run a ball, Sri Lanka's openers thrashed 96 from the six-over Powerplay - more than the T20 international record 91 that Netherlands set against Ireland at the World T20 in March, though slightly less than Lahore Eagles made in a 2012 Faysal Bank match.
Of their 128 without loss, 110 flowed in boundaries, as the Sri Lankans completed the fastest successful chase of a score of 125-plus. Their aggression made the Sussex innings appear as if it had been a donkey ride on the beach down at Hove seafront.
When Vithanage struck his fifth six towards the Sri Lankan support at the Cromwell Road End, enthusiastic attempts to catch the ball caused the boundary board to collapse. Sussex had already buckled by then. After back-to-back games in the NatWest T20 Blast, Sussex made four changes for this match but they were not as understrength as the scorecard made it seem.
Vithanage, 23 years old and with a handful of Test and ODI appearances to his name, crunched Steffan Piolet for three sixes in a row over midwicket as Sri Lanka cut their target in half by the end of the fourth over. The second bounced off the roof of the scoreboard on the east side of the ground and out into the neighbouring flats; its replacement went even further and another ball was immediately called for.
So frequently was the ball flying to the rope that occasional dot balls were met with ironic cheers. Only the seventh over, bowled by Chris Liddle, did not contain any boundaries.
The World T20 champions, without Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara for the first time since their retirements, dropped the needle straight back into its groove. They had looked in control at the halfway stage, when a Sri Lankan band played with some gusto. The music was of the pop filler variety as the chase got under way but it was still Sri Lanka that were calling the tunes.
Playing their first 20-over match since the World T20 final (although their tour match at Essex was reduced to 21 overs per side), Sri Lanka fielded a much-changed side. Kusal Perera, Angelo Mathews and Nuwan Kulasekara were rested - though all are expected to be involved in the T20 against England on Tuesday - and, with Rangana Herath being preserved for the Test series, there were six changes to the XI that lined up against India in Dhaka.
Dinesh Chandimal, the captain who dropped himself during the World T20 and has since been replaced by Lasith Malinga, took Sangakarra's wicketkeeping gloves, with Vithanage, Ashan Priyanjan, Seekkuge Prasanna, Ajantha Mendis and Suranga Lakmal the other players to come in.
Sussex began solidly enough, ending the Powerplay on 40 for 1, but opener Matt Machan was the only batsman to manage a substantial innings, his 63 providing exactly half of Sussex's total. Thisara Perera throttled the scoring during the middle overs, finishing with 2 for 13 from his allocation, and Sussex only managed 12 boundaries; Sri Lanka's 25 in less than half the overs showed how modest that effort was.
Malinga brought himself on in the fourth over and struck almost immediately, removing Luke Wells, playing in only his second T20. Wells wants to play more limited-overs cricket for Sussex but this was not the bowler to make his case against.
Michael Yardy, crabbily stepping into line from outside leg stump, drove Malinga for four during an otherwise laboured 11 off 25 balls, while Machan thumped Mendis and Sachithra Senanayake for sixes but Sri Lanka were able to keep on top of things without breaking into much of a sweat. Their fielding was not at its sharpest, Lahiru Thirimanne's drop of Ben Brown suggestive of a sunny Sunday slackness, but there was intensity enough to come with the bat. The exhibition by Dilshan and Vithanage might have been enough for a crowd of around 5000 to forgive the early finish.
One of the oddities of Sri Lanka's World T20 triumph was that their only defeat came against England, a side that exited the tournament on the lowest note of a miserable winter by losing to Netherlands. The stage is nicely set for Tuesday's rematch at The Oval.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderickFeeds: Alan Gardner
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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