Sri Lankan Cricketers beat Zimbabwe with Surprising Ease

S. Sudharshanan in ESPNcricinfo, 2 July 2023, with the title “Theekshana, Nissanka hand Sri Lanka ODI World Cup ticket”

A clinical bowling performance backed by an unbeaten 101 from Pathum Nissanka helped Sri Lanka register a nine-wicket win in the Super Six clash against Zimbabwe and also confirmed their spot at the ODI World Cup in India later this year. The win was set up by the bowlers, as they orchestrated a batting collapse on either side of a 68-run partnership between Sean Williams and Sikander Raza consigning Zimbabwe to their first loss at the 2023 ODI World Cup Qualifier.

Sri Lanka’s new-ball bowling against the Zimbabwe top-order was the play of the day in a clash billed to be between the best batting team and the best bowling team of the tournament. Dilshan Madushanka razed through the top order to leave Zimbabwe reeling inside seven overs.

The left-arm quick, playing only his second game of the competition after being brought in as a replacement for the injured Dushmantha Chameera, had the batters in trouble with the movement as well as change in lengths. He struck in his first over when he had wicketkeeper-batter Joylord Gumbie caught flicking at short midwicket. He then surprised Wessly Madhevere with a sharp bumper that had him top-edging a pull to mid-off.
In his fourth over of the spell, Madushanka had Craig Ervine poke at a full ball that straightened after pitching outside off as Zimbabwe found themselves at 30 for 3 in the seventh over. He could have had Williams caught at long leg, but Matheesha Pathirana, brought in for the injured Lahuru Kumara, dropped a simple chance.
While Raza got himself going with a perfectly timed square drive, he and Williams were happy to bide their time as they got their eye in. They were partly helped by a wayward Pathirana, who bowled seven wides in his first two overs. Raza and Williams then used their feet to put Dhananjaya de Silva and Wanindu Hasaranga off their lengths. Williams first slog-swept Dhananjaya through midwicket before cover-driving Hasaranga in the next over. Raza greeted Hasaranga with a pulled six over midwicket before charging down to belt Dhananjaya over his head.
However, Dasun Shanaka broke the stand when he had Raza swipe across the line off a short ball, only for Madushanka to pull off a diving catch at long leg. Williams soon brought up his fifth fifty-plus score in the competition before Maheesh Theekshana got into his act.
Theekshana first went through Williams’ defences before repeating the drill against Ryan Burl in the next over. He then had Luke Jongwe lbw before trapping the last batter Blessing Muzarabani to signal the end of the innings. Pathirana meanwhile cleaned up Brad Evans and Richard Ngarava to maintain Sri Lanka’s record of dismissing each of their opponents in the Qualifier for under 200.
Chasing 166, Dimuth Karunaratne was given an early life when Evans shelled him at short midwicket off Ngarava. Thereon, he and Pathum Nissanka killed the chase with a 103-run stand for the opening wicket. Nissanka exhibited supreme strokeplay after taking his time to get set. He played three aesthetically pleasing strokes of an Evans over to change gears.
Nissanka hit 14 fours in his unconquered 102-ball knock to notch up his second ODI century and set Sri Lanka India-bound with close to 17 overs in the bank.
Sri Lanka’s last game in the tournament is against West Indies, while Zimbabwe will next face Scotland in their final Super Six game with the winner assuring themselves of a spot at the ten-team World Cup in India.
A NOTE from The Thuppahi Michael Roberts :
Zimbabwe had the advantage of playing at home in familiar conditions. So, I was expecting a tough match. However, newcomer Dilshan Madushanka and the steady Maheesh Theekshana undermined them and set up a relatively easy target. Credit too to Dimuth, Nissanka and Kusal.
Well played lads.

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