Sri Lanka secured their place at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 by breezing past Zimbabwe in their Super Six encounter on Sunday.
Maheesh Theekshana took four for 25 to bowl out Zimbabwe for 165 inside 33 overs before a century from Pathum Nissanka powered Dasun Shanaka’s side to a nine-wicket win.
In the day’s other game, lower-order striking from Dipendra Singh Airee rescued Nepal as they defeated the United Arab Emirates by three wickets in the second seventh-place play-off semi-final.
Theekshana and Nissanka set up Sri Lanka win
Having been put into bat by Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe wobbled in Bulawayo, losing Joylord Gumbie for a five-ball duck before Wessly Madhevere departed for one to leave the Chevrons on eight for two.
Dilshan Madushanka took his third wicket of the morning to dismiss captain Craig Ervine, but in doing so brought the dangerous Sikandar Raza to the crease to join Sean Williams.
Raza played with the patience the situation required before Madushanka took a fine low catch to dismiss the all-rounder for 31 from 51 balls and end the 68-run partnership.
Williams could not add to his back-to-back centuries but did make 56 before he was bowled by Theekshana, who then combined with Matheesha Pathirana (2/18) to clean up the tail.
Zimbabwe’s final five batters added only 38 runs with three wickets in six balls drawing the hosts’ innings to a close after 32.2 overs.
In response to 165, Sri Lanka were led by Nissanka who made a run-a-ball fifty in a century partnership with the more watchful Dimuth Karunaratne.
The opener had reason to be cautious having been dropped on nought by Brad Evans in just the third over of the game, before surviving a review for caught behind on 21.
The review inspired Nissanka to power his side forward as he took Evans for three fours in the next over, bringing up his half-century shortly after.
The hundred-partnership arrived in the 19th over as Karunaratne took an easy single to move to 29 before the left-hander was dismissed by Richard Ngarava to leave Sri Lanka at 104 for one.
Nissanka continued to steer Sri Lanka to their total, ably supported by Kusal Mendis who selflessly turned down runs to allow Nissanka a shot at a hundred.
A wide from Wellington Masakadza brought the scores level with Nissanka three short of his second ODI ton before a four off the next ball brought up the milestone and the win, which will see Shanaka’s side head to India for the World Cup in October.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe are still in the driving seat to join Sri Lanka knowing victory over Scotland on Tuesday will make their first appearance at a Cricket World Cup since 2015 certain.
Maheesh Theekshana, Sri Lanka bowler batter and Player of the Match (4/25): “We had a good plan but I think after the first ten overs we hadn’t executed our plans well so sometimes you had to do it for the team. So I came back and had a chat with Dasun and said ‘We need to change something so I just changed something in the field and got a wicket. Because we lost Lahira [Kumara] I knew I had to bowl in the powerplay as well, but Dilshan came into the side and got the first three wickets and he got us the momentum. Sikandar [Raza] and Sean [Williams] were batting brilliantly in that period of time. So when I came back, I knew I had to get a wicket and get it settled down. I executed my plans well then and bowled better areas.”
Dasun Shanaka, Sri Lanka captain: “Coming for the qualifiers it is always tough, but still, we go through the process and we knew that with the team we have got here that we were going to qualify for the World Cup. Credit to the other teams they played really well in the tournament, some of the teams gave us some good fights in between, but still we are a better side. This bunch of players, they have got their own skills and they utilise the conditions over here really well and that is what is important. Knowing the strength of our bowling and batting, that is the key to success, we stick to our basics really well, whatever the conditions and whatever the situation is.”
On qualifying for the World Cup: “It’s a big achievement but still we know what we have done in the past in World Cups especially, we won the 1996 World Cup and were the 2011 runners-ups. We have been playing amazing cricket in the World Cup so it’s a much-needed thing for Sri Lanka to be up here in that big stage. Yes, there is pressure here but still the pressure begins on the big stage. So I think that World Cup ahead is the main focus and main target for us, we are waiting to deliver there as well.”
Craig Ervine, Zimbabwe captain: “It was always going to be challenging batting first. But I just thought there were a couple of soft dismissals in that first 10 overs, but obviously losing three wickets put us on the backfoot early. Theekshana is a veteran for Sri Lanka and he’s done it on numerous occasions. I thought that partnership between Sean Williams and Sikandar Raza got us slowly back into the game. And then he came on and basically just destroyed us and that middle order and unfortunately, we couldn’t recover from those collapses in the middle.”
On the game against Scotland on Tuesday: “I don’t think we need to prepare any differently to what we’ve been doing over the tournament. We have been playing some really good cricket over the last few games and obviously today Sri Lanka were much better than us.”
Nepal rebuild to defeat UAE
While nothing could match Nepal’s dramatic nine-run win over UAE that saw them reach the Qualifier in the fading light in Kathmandu, they certainly came close in Harare.
Momentum shifted several times in the seventh-place play-off semi-final, with Nepal taking an early upper hand as they dismissed opener Asif Khan for a two-ball duck having put the UAE into bat.
UAE, who are still without a win in the competition, responded with a 64-run partnership between captain Vriitya Aravind and Aryansh Sharma.
Sandeep Lamichhane then dismissed Sharma on his way to three for 23 before Gulsan Jha bowled Aravind for 44 from 75 balls to wrest back control for Nepal with their opponents at 97 for four.
A 58-run partnership followed as Rohan Mustafa and Basil Hameed combined for the fifth wicket but when the pair were dismissed in consecutive overs, it signalled the end of UAE’s resistance as they were bowled out for 181.
Nepal stuttered in reply with opener Kushal Bhurtel left searching for a partner as Muhammad Jawadullah wreaked havoc on Nepal’s top and middle order.
Jawadullah had Nepal at 54 for four, with three wickets from his five overs before Nepal slipped further behind in their chase as Ali Nasser dismissed Bhurtel for 35 from 59 balls.
Dipendra Singh Airee injected some much-needed impetus into Nepal’s chase, bringing them above the required run-rate on his way to a 55-ball fifty.
Airee was there at the end on 79 not out, alongside Lamichhane (23) as they put on 79 for the seventh wicket to set up a meeting with Ireland in Harare in the seventh-place play-off final on Tuesday.
Netherlands look to stay in the hunt
The Netherlands will look to force their way back into qualification contention as they take on Oman in the Super Six.
Zimbabwe’s loss to Sri Lanka has set up a three-way shootout between the hosts, Scotland and the Netherlands for the final qualification spot.
Scott Edwards’ side need to win both of their remaining games by a healthy margin to stand any chance of qualifying, while also requiring Zimbabwe to lose their final game against Scotland.
The Netherlands take on Oman, who have already been ruled out of contention, in Harare tomorrow.
Scores in brief
Sri Lanka beat Zimbabwe at Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo by nine wickets
Zimbabwe 165 all out in 32.2 overs (Sean Williams 56, Sikandar Raza 31; Maheesh Theekshana 4/25, Dilshan Madushanka 3/15)
Sri Lanka 169/1 in 33.1 overs (Pathum Nissanka 101 not out, Dimuth Karunaratne 30; Richard Ngarava 1/35, Blessing Muzarabani 0/28)
Nepal beat UAE at Takashinga Sports Club, Harare by three wickets
UAE 181 all out in 46.5 overs (Vriitya Aravind 44, Rohan Mustafa 35; Sandeep Lamichhane 3/23, Karan KC 3/36)
Nepal 185/7 in 43.2 overs (Dipendra Singh Airee 79 not out, Kuhsal Bhurtel 35; Muhammad Jawadullah 3/46, Junaid Siddique 1/20)
Monday 3 July – Fixtures
Netherlands v Oman at Harare Sports Club, Harare