Ireland could not add to their points tally in Group A at the T20 World Cup after Sri Lanka inflicted a heavy defeat at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi by 70 runs.
Irish hopes of moving to the next round were dealt a tough blow from the loss, but the task is now simplified. Namibia’s impressive win against the Netherlands means Ireland’s final group game against the African side becomes knockout.
Andrew Balbirnie was likely hopeful as he won the toss and opted to bowl. This increased as Ireland had Sri Lanka 8-3 after brilliant bowling by Josh Little.
The Dubliner had two wickets from two balls, almost achieving what Curtis Campher had on Monday with his four in four.
Hope soon turned to sorrow as a newly promoted Wanindu Hasaranga seized matters. The 24-year-old had never batted in this position before but soon showed that coach Mickey Arthur knew something we didn’t.
A very quick turn
Balbirnie may rue bowling spinner Simi Singh in the sixth over without fielders out. Seventeen came off six balls with most coming from Hasaranga’s bat. Momentum was gone.
Hasaranga and Nissanka built a partnership of 123 to capitalise on the turnover. Little who had performed so well at start then pulled back the reins and finished with 4-23, career best figures.
Ireland could have been chasing 200, but did well to keep Sri Lanka’s total to 171/7. They would have to start well with the bat too.
When Kevin O’Brien skied a ball off Karunaratne, the pressure piled on Paul Stirling. He got the efficient Theekshana away with a one bounce four, but then offered a catch to Kumara at short fine leg who gladly took it. Stirling grimaced as he walked.
The loss of Gareth Delaney and the increasing run rate soon put an end to Ireland’s challenge. Balbirnie fought a lone hand with 41 off 39, but support was needed.
Sri Lanka looked impressive throughout and only allowed Ireland 101 from 18.3 overs. They have now qualified for the Super 12s.
Ireland meanwhile know exactly what to do, beat Namibia or go home. The Eagles have the same equation which makes for a brilliant contest ahead.
Ireland face Namibia in their final Group A game on Friday at 11am on Sky Sports Cricket.