Spinners set up easy win for Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka Under-19s 175 for 5 (Munaweera 43, Angelo Perera 43,
Priyanjan 43) beat Australia Under-19s 172 (Kavikara 3-20) by five wickets
Sri Lanka's varied spin attack, led by the left-armer Navin Kavikara, performed a slow strangle act that would have made their senior team proud as they set up a five-wicket win against Australia at the Penang Sports Club. They dismissed Australia for 172 and Dilshan Munaweera helped them gun down the target with more than 12 overs to spare. The victory put Sri Lanka on top of Group C and set up a quarter-final clash with New Zealand, while Australia will play Pakistan, the winners of Group A.
Sri Lanka used five spinners in all - Kavikara, Sachith Pathirana, Umesh Karunarathne, Roshen Silva and Munaweera - and between them they picked up seven wickets for 109 in 37.3 overs. The introduction of the slow bowlers curbed the runs after the top-order batsmen accelerated to 79 for 2 after 13 overs.
When the offspinner Karunarathne came on in the 13th over, he bowled the Australian captain Michael Hill but his joy quickly turned to disappointment as the umpire signalled a no-ball. Hill, a left-hander, took on Karunarathne, pulling the free-hit to the wide long-on boundary and lofting the next ball for six over midwicket. There were a sizeable number of Australian supporters and cries of "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi" rang around the ground.
Not content with 11 runs off two balls, Hill attacked again, trying to hit against the spin but top edged to cover. In his next over, Karunarathne induced an edge from Phillip Hughes and as he had done with Hill, gave the batsman a pumped-up send off. Having lost two quick wickets to be reduced to 80 for 3, Australia switched from attack to consolidation mode and looked to nudge the ball around and rotate strike.
The two left-arm spinners - Kavikara and Pathirana - bowled in tandem and zipped through their overs with a wicket-to-wicket line. Kavikara delivered a mix of conventional spin and straighter ones and trapped Michael Cramner lbw with one that kept low and straight. He then had Steven Smith and Dom O'Brien stumped as Australia slipped further.
Both batsmen left their crease, realised they were beaten by the length and tried to defend, but the ball spun past the outside edge and the wicketkeeper Dinesh Chandimal, who was involved in seven dismissals, did the rest. Kavikara finished with 3 for 20 off ten overs. Pathirana, who was limping during his first spell, bowled flat and fast to hit James Faulkner on the pads as he tried to play across the line.
The watertight performance from the spinners was in contrast to the displays of the new-ball bowlers, Tissara Perera and Denuwan Fernando. Although Tissara and Fernando beat the Australian openers whenever the length was right, they strayed often on either side of the wicket, which allowed Hughes to cut and flick powerfully. The start was steady: Australia were 22 for no loss after five overs and they accelerated after Hill's arrival to get the run-rate to six.
The Sri Lankan innings also got off to a brisk start, although Lahiru Thirimanne lost his off stump to the left-arm new-ball bowler Faulkner early on. The other opener, Dilshan Munaweera, was a treat to watch. He didn't play the other group games because of a finger injury but his innings - 43 off 42 balls - ambushed Australia and gave Sri Lanka an ideal platform while chasing a small target.
Munaweera is a short, stocky right-hand batsman who has a cavalier approach. He looked to attack from the outset, playing ambitious drives, cuts and pulls. Though he was beaten a few times and inside-edged a couple, he did not change his mindset. He was hit in the midriff by James Pattinson but responded by square driving and lofting to the point and long-off boundaries.
Three more fours came off Munaweera's bat in the fifth over - a fierce pull, a slash over point and an elegant and orthodox cover drive. He also took on Faulkner, who was bowling at considerable pace, and smashed him twice to the long-off boundary. By the time he holed out to long-off from Clive Rose's left-arm spin, the Sri Lankan run-chase was on course.
The former Sri Lankan batsman Aravinda de Silva, who is a consultant with the under-19 team said Munaweera's approach was part of a plan. "In this particular innings, I wanted him to be more positive and aggressive," he said. "Particularly against Australia, we needed it." There was a minor hiccup as they lost another wicket - Chandimal - to Rose a few balls later, but a 76-run stand between Angelo Perera and Ashan Priyanjan helped seal the win.
George Binoy is a staff writer at Cricinfo