Wanindu Hasaranga on Wednesday announced himself as a “batting allrounder” after his maiden Twenty20 international half-century helped Sri Lanka reach the Super 12 stage of the World Cup with a 70-run thrashing of Ireland.
Hasaranga, who smashed 71, and Pathum Nissanka, who made 61, put on a key stand of 123 to guide Sri Lanka to 171 for seven after being in trouble at 8-3 in the first round match in Abu Dhabi.
Sri Lanka’s bowling attack, led by spinner Maheesh Theekshana who returned figures of 3-17, dismissed Ireland for 101 in 18.3 overs despite a valiant 41 from skipper Andy Balbirnie.
Hasaranga stood out with the 47-ball knock and economical figures of 1-12 with his leg-spin as Sri Lanka remained top of Group A with four points after their second successive win.
“When I went in I was under pressure, but I rotated the first few balls, then I accelerated,” Hasaranga, who was promoted to number five, said after being named man-of-the-match.
When asked how would he like to describe himself, Hasaranga, who has a batting average of under 16 and whose previous best was 44, said: “I am a batting allrounder.”
Fast bowlers Chamika Karunaratne and Lahiru Kumara also made their presence felt by taking two wickets each and skipper Dasun Shanaka said it is a “luxury” to have them.
Put in to bat, Sri Lanka stumbled in the second over before the pairing of Hasaranga and Nissanka set about the recovery.
Paul Stirling claimed the wicket of Kusal Perera for nought with the second ball of the innings and Josh Little took two in two the following over to remove Dinesh Chandimal and Avishka Fernando.
“Of course it was a concern at 8 for 3, but they put on an awesome partnership. Hasaranga at five is a plan coming in at the World Cup and it worked well for us,” said Shanaka.
“Have to look at top-order batting, but other areas are okay, though fielding has been poor as well.”
Hasaranga took the attack to the opposition with four straight boundaries off spinner Simi Singh to lay the foundation for Sri Lanka’s challenging total.
He reached his fifty in 38 balls and kept up the charge to punish the Ireland bowlers, blasting a towering six before falling to Mark Adair.
Nissanka was equally efficient and also recorded his first fifty in the shortest international format as he hit six fours and one six in his 47-ball knock.
Little returned impressive figures of 4-23 – his T20 best – including Nissanka’s wicket from his four overs of left-arm pace.
Adair claimed his 50th T20I wicket before Shanaka finished the innings with a six and a four in his unbeaten 21 off 11 balls.
Earlier in the day, Namibia beat the Netherlands, who have lost both their matches, to keep their Super 12s hopes alive along with Ireland.