Sri Lanka thump Ireland to reach Super 12s, Namibia claim maiden win
Dubai; Sri Lanka became the first team to progress from the T20 World Cup first round on Wednesday by recovering from a nervous start to thrash Ireland, while Namibia claimed a historic win over the Netherlands.
Ireland had the Sri Lankans in trouble at 8-3, but Wanindu Hasaranga and Pathum Nissanka shared a stand of 123 to help the Asian side put a strong total of 171 for seven on the board.
The Irish lost wickets regularly and succumbed to a 70-run defeat after being bowled out for 101 with nine balls remaining.
Sri Lanka, the 2014 champions, have won back-to-back matches and sit top of Group A ahead of a dead rubber against the Netherlands in their last group match on Friday.
"Of course it was a concern at 8-3, but they put on an awesome partnership," said Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka.
"(We) have to look at top-order batting, but other areas are ok, though fielding has been poor as well."
Namibia and Ireland will go head-to-head for a place in the Super 12 stage.
Ireland, who saw off the Netherlands in their opening game, knew victory would put them on the brink of qualification and they made a dream start in Abu Dhabi.
Kusal Perera fell to Paul Stirling's part-time off-spin from the second ball of the innings before left-arm seamer Josh Little dismissed Dinesh Chandimal and Avishka Fernando with successive balls in the second over.
But Hasaranga and Nissanka both struck their maiden T20 international fifties to rescue Sri Lanka.
All-rounder Hasaranga turned the momentum with four consecutive fours off Simi Singh and made 71 from only 47 deliveries.
Nissanka contributed 61 himself and Shanaka added the finishing touches with an unbeaten 21 off 11 balls.
Ireland needed a strong start from key batters Stirling and Kevin O'Brien, but both the openers were sent back to the dug-out within the first two-and-a-half overs.
Skipper Andy Balbirnie made a defiant 41 as Ireland attempted to limit the damage to their net run-rate, but Sri Lanka spinner Maheesh Theekshana took 3-17 as Ireland tumbled to a comprehensive defeat.
Earlier Wednesday, former South Africa all-rounder David Wiese bludgeoned a brilliant 66 not out to lead Namibia to their first-ever victory at a World Cup.
The Netherlands, who won the global qualifying tournament in 2019, were red-hot favourites to win after posting a formidable 164 for four.
Victory for Namibia looked even more unlikely when they slipped to 52-3 in the ninth over.
But Wiese, a veteran of the T20 franchise circuit, had other ideas, blasting five sixes and four fours in a 40-ball knock to take them home by six wickets with an over to spare.
He was given excellent help by captain Gerhard Erasmus, who made a 22-ball 32.
JJ Smit hit the winning runs with an outside edge through third man, sparking wild celebrations from the Namibia bench, led by coach Albie Morkel.
"It means a lot to me," said the 36-year-old Wiese.
"A World Cup on the international stage is special and to put in a big performance for Namibia, I'm glad to get this opportunity to play international cricket."
Namibia, whose only previous World Cup appearance saw them lose all their matches in the one-day showpiece in 1983, could secure matches against cricket's biggest nations with victory over Ireland.
The Super 12 stage, when the eight automatic qualifiers join the tournament, gets underway on Saturday when Australia face South Africa.