On certain days, an individual’s success depends on his desire to grind it out, while others around him or her fail to get a grip over the conditions. Those who manage not to succumb to the pressure invariably prove to be the difference between winning and losing. Thilaksha Sumanasiri was that difference on Sunday (February 16) in the ICC Under-19 World Cup game between Sri Lanka and England at Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
Sumanasiri’s 42-ball 43 in a crisis situation gave Sri Lanka a thrilling one-wicket victory against England in its Group D match, and with two wins in as many matches, Sri Lanka has now placed itself in a very strong position to qualify for the quarterfinals.
On the back of Jonathan Tattersall’s 95, England had reached 230 for 9 in its 50 overs, and looked to be on top after reducing Sri Lanka to 160 for 7 in 35 overs. But that is when Sumanasiri and AK Tyronne got together to take stock of things.
With a tail-ender for company, Sumanasiri, who had shown his first real sign of intent when he hit Rob Sayer over wide long-on, backed himself to come good. He played his shots in the first five balls of every over and then tried to take a single to retain the strike.
He successfully shielded Tyronne from the strike most of the time, but Tyronne proved adept in stonewalling the England attack. As he grew in confidence, he too started playing his strokes and England buckled under pressure.
Dominic Sibley dropped an easy catch off Sumanasiri at midwicket when the batsman was on 34, and England suddenly became sloppy on the field, failing to make the most of the half-chances that came its way.
Finally in the 45th over, Sumanasiri miscued a pull shot and was caught and bowled by Will Rhodes, but the 53-run partnership had taken Sri Lanka to the doorstep of victory by that time. Rhodes, the captain, populated the in-field and Tyronne hit Sibley straight to Tattersall at cover after making 20 in 36 balls.
With nine runs needed for a win and a wicket in hand, Lakshan Jayasinghe cut Sibley, the legspinner, for a boundary. Anuk Fernando and Jayasinghe then hit through the in-field to level the scores and then Anuk dabbed one to Tattersall at point and ran for his life. Tattersall’s throw missed the stumps at the bowling end by a fair margin and Sri Lanka reached home with seven balls left, and its dressing room burst into loud celebrations.
Sri Lanka’s chase had got off to a steady start. Hashan Dumindu and Sadeera Samarawickrama made the fast bowlers look ordinary in its opening-wicket stand of 46 runs, and that forced Rhodes to introduce spin in the form of Sayer by the ninth over.
The move paid off as Dumindu and Kusal Perera were trapped in front of the wicket in consecutive deliveries. Soon after, Harry Finch took a good catch at second slip off Rhodes to send Minod Bhanuka back.
But Samarawickrama, who saw wickets falling at the other end, did not change his game. With a steady head and immaculate drives in his repertoire, he kept the game moving along, but the lack of a big partnership meant that Sri Lanka relied heavily on him.
The game titled significantly in England’s favour in the 35th over with Josh Shaw’s twin strikes. Samarawickrama got a pull wrong and Harsha Rajapaksha, trying to steer one to thirdman, was caught behind.
England would have felt confident at that point, but Sumanasiri and Tyronne had other plans.
That Sri Lanka had to chase 231 was because of Tattersall, who held the England innings together in his 120-ball knock.
It was a hard graft on the whole. In the England innings, a total of 178 dot balls were bowled, only ten fours and three sixes were hit, and, barring Rhodes, who made 38, none of the other batsmen seemed to have an answer against the Sri Lankan spin trio of Rajapaksha, Jayasinghe and Tyronne, all of who conceded under four runs an over.
The standout feature of Tattersall’s performance was his determination to stand tall through the tough periods and take his team to a competitive total on a slow surface. Tattersall had arrived at the crease after Anuk, who generated good pace, had yorked Sibley and had Ryan Higgins caught behind and, just three balls into his innings, he lost Finch, who had looked technically solid, when he missed the line of a delivery from Rajapaksha, the offspinner, and was bowled. Three balls later, Rajapaksha had his second victim when Ed Barnard inside edged a ball on to the stumps.
With England reeling at 43 for 4, Tattersall and Rhodes got together and they oversaw a phase in the innings that had no boundaries being scored for 76 balls.
In the 20th over, Rhodes stepped out to flick Tyronne for a boundary, but that did not break the regularity of the dot balls. Aware of the situation, the pair worked hard at placing the ball in the gaps and ran really well between the wickets.
The 71-run stand ensured that the run-rate remained healthy.
Sri Lanka managed to separate the duo in the 32nd over when Rhodes could not get a flick right off a full delivery from Binuka Fernando and was bowled.
Having picked up the tricks from the partnership, the batsmen who followed Rhodes did not try anything cheeky and just focussed on taking singles and giving as much of the strike as possible to Tattersall.
Tattersall, who hit his first boundary (a six over midwicket off Binura) off the 54th ball of his innings, went about his job efficiently and scored the majority of the runs in his half-century stands with Joe Clarke and Sayer.
With a century for the taking, Tattersall was caught off the penultimate ball of the innings at long-off to give Anuk his third wicket.
In the end, Sri Lanka’s ability to handle pressure better than England helped it go through.
(Courtesy: International Cricket Council)