Kusal Mendis blasted a timely half-century and Wanindu Hasaranga took three wickets as Sri Lanka eased into the Super 12 phase of the T20 World Cup with a 16-run win over the Netherlands in Geelong on Thursday.
The wicketkeeper-batsman’s swashbuckling 79 from 44 drove Sri Lanka to 162 for six on a sunny afternoon at Kardinia Park before the talismanic Hasaranga helped restrict Netherlands to 146 for nine, despite an unbeaten 71 from opener Max O’Dowd.
The win put Sri Lanka top of Group A ahead of second-placed Netherlands, while knocking the winless United Arab Emirates out of the tournament.
Sri Lanka were stunned by Namibia in their first qualifier, but steadied their campaign by thrashing the UAE.
“We knew that when we came to the World Cup we would be the favourites in this group,” said captain Dasun Shanaka.
“Unfortunately we missed out in the first game, but we regrouped and we came back strong.
“I thought the wicket wasn’t easy to bat on, it was a bit two-faced. So I thought in the first 10 overs we were able to control the scoring rate really well.”
The Netherlands have a nervous wait for the late match at Kardinia Park between third-placed Namibia and the UAE.
Victory for Namibia would see the Africans advance on superior run rate at the Netherlands’ expense as one of the group’s top two sides.
“Hopefully the UAE can help us get through, but it was in our hands, and just disappointed we weren’t quite there tonight,” said Netherlands captain Scott Edwards.
With injuries tearing through Sri Lanka’s bowling contingent, the Asia Cup champions brought in Lahiru Kumara and left-armer Binura Fernando in place of Dushmantha Chameera, who was ruled out of the tournament on Wednesday, and the sidelined Pramod Madushan.
The replacement seamers each chipped in a wicket, while Maheesh Theekshana took 2-32 in front of a modest but buoyant crowd of Sri Lankan fans.
The Netherlands started well in their chase but came to grief as the powerplay wound up, losing two wickets in four balls to fall to 47 for three in the seventh over.
The runs dried up as all-rounder Hasaranga went to work with his legspin and Shanaka bowled tidily off the seam.
Needing 100 runs off the last 10 overs, Netherlands tried to slog their way out of trouble but a quick double-strike by Hasaranga in the 17th over all but wrapped up the match.