Malinga to the fore as Sri Lanka defends 129

Lasith Malinga smiled a lot, slung them in fast and slung them in slow, and in just the first over of the United Arab Emirates reply in its Asia Cup 2016 fixture at Sher-e-Bangla Stadium in Mirpur on Thursday (February 25), the captain had swung the game Sri Lanka’s way.

Sri Lanka had put up a below-par 129 for 8. But once Malinga, in his comeback match, had strutted his stuff with an inswinger into the left-handed Rohan Mustafa and a slower yorker that Mohammad Shahzad had no answer to, even that looked like a massive total. Nuwan Kulasekara then struck twice in the fourth over of the innings, and UAE’s hopes of an upset victory started to vanish.

However, Swapnil Patil, the wicketkeeper-batsman, and Amjad Javed, the captain, fought the good fight valiantly. But up against a determined Sri Lankan outfit, led by Malinga‘s 4 for 26, they only managed to delay the inescapable – a 14-run defeat, as UAE ended on 115 for 9.

First up, asked to bat, Sri Lanka started well, even if Mohammad Naveed, in particular, posed quite a few questions to Tillakaratne Dilshan and Dinesh Chandimal, the opening batsmen. Dilshan was twice made to look a bit out of place, Naveed getting disconcerting bounce.

But although Sri Lanka didn’t speed away, Dilshan picked up pace in the third over of the innings, peppering the leg side ropes with three fours off Naveed.

Chandimal joined in with a six and a four off Qadeer Ahmed in the next, and Sri Lanka had scored 49 in the Power Play and 68 by the end of the ninth over.

But the script changed once Amjad came back for his second over. Ahmed Raza had put the brakes on by giving away just five runs in his first two overs, and Amjad capitalised. Dilshan, who hadn’t looked fluent, pulled from outside off straight to Muhammad Usman at deep midwicket after scoring 27 from 28 balls. Milinda Siriwardena miscued a pull in Amjad’s next over, and in Amjad’s last, Chandimal, who had reached his half-century the previous ball, slogged straight to midwicket. Chandimal hit seven fours and a six in his 39-ball 50, and looked solid in what was a new batting position for him.

Asia Cup T20 2016 – Sri Lanka v UAE View Full

Amjad had sent Sri Lanka from a position of strength to 89 for 3 by the 14th over, and all the team managed after Dilshan’s dismissal was 61 for 8 in 10.5 overs, even though the team had a rejigged batting order, with Dasun Shanaka up at No. 4 and Chamara Kapugedara down at No. 7.

Once Amjad was done, not before cutting Angelo Mathews in half with one that curved in, Naveed took over. There was little resistance as the fast man and Shahzad returned identical figures of 2 for 27.

Sri Lanka’s batting effort netted the team fewer runs than it would have liked, but, in the end, it was good enough.

As is often the case with teams that don’t often come up against top-quality bowling, the UAE batsmen were blown away by Malinga and Kulasekara. The trend of pacemen getting their way early on, which didn’t quite happen in the first half of the match, continued as Malingahad Mustafa trapped lbw first ball, and then knocked Shahzad’s middle stump back with his last. In no time, UAE’s happiness at having kept Sri Lanka down to a low score evaporated when Kulasekara sent Muhammad Kaleem and Usman back in the fourth over.

More wickets fell and UAE was 47 for 6 when Patil and Amjad came together. Amjad focussed on giving Patil the strike, and Patil went for his runs, two pulled boundaries off Chameera in the 15th over the high point of his 36-ball 37, which ended when Malinga came back for his second spell, a hoick off a slower yorker flying off the leading edge for a return catch. Amjad scored 13 in 18 balls, with not a single hit to the fence.

Sri Lanka’s bowlers continued to make inroads, but UAE held on without getting bowled out in its 20 overs. For Sri Lanka, Kulasekara’s 3 for 10 and Rangana Herath’s 2 for 22 complemented the work done by Malinga.

(Courtesy: International Cricket Board)