Sri Lanka restore order as UAE crumble

UAE's Karthik Palaniapan Meiyappan tries to play a sweep shot as Sri Lanka's wicketkeeper Kusal (R) follows the ball during the ICC mens Twenty20 World Cup 2022 cricket match between Sri Lanka and United Arab Emirates at Kardinia Park in Geelong on October 18, 2022. - -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo by WILLIAM WEST / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

If the batters had until now found conditions on Kardinia Park’s drop-in pitches less than ideal, Sri Lankan opener Pathum Nissanka showed on Tuesday evening that it was possible to prosper, especially against an Emirati attack which is for the most part innocuous, even in such friendly circumstances.

Nissanka’s 60-ball 74, including six fours and two sixes, guided his side to a total of 152 for eight, imposing enough on this ground, and even a hat-trick by leg-spinner Karthik Meiyappan in the 15th over, wasn’t enough to put his side on top.

Then the Emiratis collapsed against the combination of Dushmantha Chameera’s pace, the off-breaks of Maheesh Theekshana and Wanindu de Silva’s leg spin, a 79-run victory sufficient to restore the Sri Lankans’ hopes of reaching the so-called Super 12.

Sri Lanka had made a very good start after UAE skipper Chundangapoyil Rizwan won the toss and elected to field, 52 coming from the powerplay overs for the loss of Kusal Mendis’s wicket.

Nissanka and Dhananjaya de Silva added exactly 50 from 39 deliveries before a dreadful mix-up saw De Silva run out for 33, made from just 21 balls.

It was now left to Nissanka to hold the innings together, no other Sri Lankan batter reaching double figures, but despite Meiyappan’s prodgious over he was able to marshal the last five overs sufficiently to ensure that 35 runs came from them.

Meiyappan’s four overs cost just 19 runs, while Aayan Afzal Khan conceded 16 from three.

Chameera then ripped the top off the Emirati batting with two wickets in his first over and another in his second, and at 19 for three the task already seemed likely to be beyond this relatively raw side.

Chirag Suri, one of only three Emirati batters to reach double figures, was bowled by Pramod Liyanagamage in the next, and after Dasun Shanaka removed Basil Hameed to make it 30 for five, the spinners took over, Wanindu de Silva claiming three for 8 in four overs and Theekshana two for 15 to complete the rout.

The only blemish on an otherwise dominant performance was an injury to Chameera, who was unable to complete his fourth over and left the field with the UAE on 73 for nine; Sri Lanka will be hoping that he is fit to play when they take on the Netherlands in another must-win encounter on Thursday.

16-year-old Aayan Khan, who made a 21-ball 19, and Junaid Siddique showed some resistance for the UAE, Junaid hammering Chameera over the midwicket boundary shortly before the fast bowler’s enforced departure, but when he holed out to long on in Theekshana’s next a generally dispiriting performance.

Namibia, who fought back hard against the Netherlands to keep their qualification hopes alive, will eye their match against the Emiratis on Thursday with plenty of confidence, especially since they have the advantage of playing last, while Sri Lanka and the Dutch will know that, barring a truly sensational recovery by the UAE, only one of them will make it into the tournament proper.

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