DUBAI: Sri Lanka began their ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 Super 12 campaign with a hard-fought win against Bangladesh in Sharjah.
Attacking fifties by Charith Asalanka and Bhanuka Rajapaksa helped Sri Lanka chase down a stiff target of 172 with five wickets and seven balls to spare.
The duo struck eight sixes between them, using the shorter boundary at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium cleverly to recover from a mid-innings wobble and give their side two crucial points in Group 1.
Bangladesh paid for dropped chances, as half-centuries by Mohammad Naim and Mushfiqur Rahim, who took them to 171/4, went in vain.
Facing a stiff target, Asalanka, who came out to bat in the first over at the loss of Kusal Perera, took on Bangladesh’s spinners early. In just his third ball, his slog sweep brought him four, and the shot continued to be a rewarding one for him through the innings.
Nasum Ahmed, the left-arm spinner, who was playing his first game of the tournament, had bowled Perera first up, but got smacked for two sixes on either side of the wicket when he returned for his second.
Pathum Nissanka got into the attack himself in the last over of the fielding restrictions, as Mahedi Hasan went for 16.
At 54/1 after six overs, Sri Lanka had won the Powerplay battle for the day.
Just when Sri Lanka were bossing the chase, Shakib returned for his second over to remind fans just why he is a premier all-rounder. He bowled full lengths with flight and drift to take two wickets and concede just one in the ninth over.
He had Nissanka bowled, before sending back Avishka Fernando for a duck with a straighter one.
Wanindu Hasaranga then couldn’t get on top of a slower ball from Mohammad Saifuddin, offering a high catch to Naim.
However, that was the last bit of joy that Bangladesh had in a while, as birthday boy Rajapaksa joined Asalanka in the middle to steady the innings.
The two left-handers put together a match-defining stand of 86 off just 52 balls.
Rajapaksa quickly settled Sri Lankan nerves with an inside-out six over extra cover, and grew in confidence to attempt runs at the longer boundary as well.
Asalanka danced down the track to Mahmud Ullah before slog sweeping the off-spinner to collect two sixes in the 14th over. Rajapaksa then took 22 off Saifuddin in the 16th over, to comprehensively turn the game Sri Lanka’s way.