Sri Lanka’s openers put on a big partnership to take Zimbabwe out of the game in their Group A match of the ICC Cricket World Cup at Pallekele. Zimbabwe’s openers too put up a fight but once they were dismissed, Sri Lanka’s bowlers ran through their batting line up and cruised to victory by a margin of 139 runs.
Zimbabwe captain Elton Chigumbura won the toss and decided to field first. His seamers did not vindicate the decision as Sri Lanka got off to a flyer. Tinashe Panyangara bowled the second over of the innings and Tillakaratne Dilshan got into the act with a straight drive for four which was followed by a pull over midwicket for six. Two more boundaries came off the next two balls – a cover drive and a cut past point fetching those runs. Upul Tharanga got into the act in the last over of the mandatory Powerplay with three fours – one over the fielder at short fine leg, the next over mid off and the last one a pull behind square. 77 runs had come off the first 10 overs.
The introduction of the spinners put a brake on the scoring rate as the pair consolidated. Their 100 run partnership came in the 17th over with a sweep for four. Runs continued to come at a fair clip as both the batsmen rotated the strike well. Dilshan brought up his hundred in the 31st over and the 200 run stand was brought up in the 34th over of the innings. The batting Powerplay was taken in the 41st over when Sri Lanka were 233/0 and both the batsmen looked like carrying their bat through the innings.
Tharanga too joined Dilshan in the 100 run club with a boundary through mid off. Once he got to that century, he opened up – three fours off Greg Lamb making his intentions clear. However, Tharanga was dismissed against the run of play when the pair had put on 282 – the highest opening partnership in World Cups. The rest of the batsmen tried to up the ante and lost wickets in the process as Sri Lanka piled 327/6 in their allotted 50 overs.
Zimbabwe made a spirited reply as Brendan Taylor and Regis Chakabva opened the batting. Taylor was the dominant of the two as he attacked Lasith Malinga – first with a push through covers that went for four runs and then played an audacious shot over the keeper’s head. Sri Lanka’s frontline seamers had an off day as Taylor struck two more fours off Kulasekara and 57 runs came in the first 10 overs. Thisara Perera too was not spared as Taylor pulled him for a six and a four in the same over. Taylor got to a well made fifty in the 14th over and celebrated that with a cover drive that went for four more runs.
Regis Chakabva, Taylor’s silent partner in this fighting stand, too played a couple of lovely shots. He played the cut shot off Muralitharan and Mathews to find the gaps and Zimbabwe’s openers had raised 100 runs in the 17th over. But soon things turned around. Muralitharan got the wicket of Chakabva in the 20th over to get the bowling back on track. Wickets started falling at regular intervals now and once Taylor was dismissed caught by the fielder at midwicket, the chase was over for Zimbabwe. The openers scored 116 runs but the remaining batsmen could only muster 72 runs. Dilshan and Murali were the chief architects picking seven wickets between them.
Sri Lanka will be happy with the way their spinners handled things after a lacklustre performance from their seamers. They do not have any worries in batting as Dilshan and Tharanga are looking good and the middle order was not really needed today. They have booked a place in the quarter finals and can prepare themselves for the bigger battles ahead.
Zimbabwe were poor with the ball until the spinners came on but the inability to pick wickets cost them dear. The good start given by the openers was not carried forward by the middle order batsmen. A little more application from their batsmen was necessary especially when a strong foundation had been laid. Sadly only Taylor looked the part of a quality batsman for them today and even his wonderful innings was not enough to save Zimbabwe from a big defeat.