Sri Lanka's U-19 batsmen click into shape
Sri Lanka's top order finally clicked into gear at the SSC to take them to the Super League play-off final in the Under-19 World Cup
Sri Lanka 259 for 2 (de Zoysa 63, Karunaratne 53) beat Zimbabwe 256 for 8 (Meth 91, Pathirana 2-44) by 8 wickets
Sri Lanka put a troubled couple of days behind them as their top order finally clicked into gear at the SSC to take them to the Super League play-off final in the Under-19 World Cup. With Angelo Mathews, their captain, unavailable through injury for the rest of the tournament and Sachithra Serasinghe sacked from the side for misconduct, this was a fine example of triumph over adversity.
Sameera de Zoysa struck a determined fifty to take Sri Lanka through to victory
Determined half-centuries from Sameera de Zoysa, the replacement captain,
and Dimuth Karunaratne, who combined with an opening stand of 114, laid the
foundations for the middle order to reach a useful target of 257 with 16
balls to spare. But when Gary Balance and Keegan Meth were forging
Zimbabwe's major partnership - a stand of 131 for the fourth wicket - they
were on course for a total nearer 275.
Whereas in earlier matches Sri Lanka's top order had been guilty of trying
to tee off too soon, here de Zoysa and Karunaratne initially played
circumspectly against the new ball. Once their eye was in, both batsmen
chanced their arm by lofting over the in field. With the scoring rate
increasing, Sean Williams opted to hold back his second Powerplay, but the
Sri Lankans were content to milk the singles.
Williams also delayed introducing his two of his more effective bowlers
until the openers were well into their stride. Graeme Cremer and Ryan
Higgins have troubled most teams in the last two weeks but, confusingly, were the sixth and seventh bowlers used.
Cremer forced the first breakthrough for Zimbabwe, as Karunaratne drove back a
simple return catch, but progress wasn't considerably slowed as Ashan Priyanjara
latched onto anything loose. Cremer was then in the action again, this
time throwing the stumps down to remove Priyanjara with a smart piece of
fielding. When de Zoysa was forced to retire hurt with cramp, Zimbabwe had
a sniff with two new batsmen at the crease.
However, Dilhan Cooray and Hans Fernando were in no mood for messing about
and nudging their way to the target. They opened their shoulders, piercing
the off-side, as well as sprinting between the wickets and stealing enough
singles to cause Williams to pull his hair out. They carried Sri Lanka home
with a string of boundaries and at last gave the host nation something to
Sumithra Waranakulasuriya, Sri Lanka's coach, said the recent problems had
been a motivation: "The players were upset but we told them they had gone
and it was down to the others." And he added that it was pleasing to see
the batting click: "We have been working on batting in partnerships for a
long time. Today they did it well and didn't panic when they saw the big
total. The openers gave us the momentum to go for it."
Unlike Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe had made a rocky start to their innings,
slipping to 39 for 2 against some wholehearted, if not consistently accurate,
new-ball bowling. Balance, though, kept his poise, while Meth launched
into a robust innings with a string of powerful shots. The fielding was embarrassing at times, as the ball resembled a bar of soap to many of the Sri Lankans. The coach admitted it wasn't very impressive: "It isn't that we don't do enough fielding [practice] because they work hard. It's just when they are in the field perhaps they don't anticipate the
catches very well. The ones dropping them are also the good fielders which
is the frustration."
But when Shalika Karunanayake removed Balance the innings stuttered and
Meth was trapped lbw by a sharp yorker from Tissara Perera nine short of
deserved century. Ryan Higgins boosted the total with some sensible
hitting towards and, with an in-form spin attack, 256 was a sizeable
total. In the end it was made to look well below par as Sri Lanka's
batting performed to its potential. Better late than never.
Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo