In a captivating start to their 2023 campaign, the reigning champions of the Asia Cup, Sri Lanka, showcased their mettle by clinching a commanding five-wicket triumph against Bangladesh. This resounding victory marked their remarkable 11th consecutive win in ODIs, setting a new record in their illustrious cricketing journey.
The cornerstone of Sri Lanka’s triumph was an exceptional exhibition of bowling finesse, orchestrated by the duo of Matheesha Pathirana and Maheesh Theekshana.
Their spellbinding performances kept Bangladesh at bay, restricting them to a sub-par score of 164 on a sluggish track at Pallekele. Pathirana’s figures of 4 for 32 and Theekshana’s contributions of 2 for 19 demonstrated their skill in exploiting the conditions.
The game’s momentum began with Bangladesh initially asserting themselves after winning the toss. However, the Sri Lankan skipper, Dasun Shanaka, exhibited strategic composure by opting to bowl first on a surface known for its gradual pace and uneven bounce.
Shanaka’s astute understanding of the conditions was mirrored in his tactical decisions, notably his utilization of Theekshana with the new ball.
In a captivating twist, Theekshana immediately made an impact, dismissing debutant Tanzid Hasan LBW on just his second delivery. The experienced Dhananjaya de Silva, introduced in the eighth over, swiftly joined the wicket-takers by dismissing Mohammad Naim with a deceptive delivery. As the Bangladeshi innings faltered at 36 for 3, a resilient revival was imperative.
While Bangladesh managed to initiate a revival, it lacked the necessary speed. Shanto anchored one end, displaying prudent shot selection, while Towhid Hridoy partnered with him in a steady 59-run alliance for the fourth wicket.
Sri Lanka’s bowling prowess continued to surge, with Pathirana’s variations proving too intricate for Bangladesh’s lower order. The final six wickets crumbled for a mere 37 runs as the Bangladeshi tail-enders struggled against the crafty changes of pace.
As the chase commenced under the evening lights, the batting conditions improved noticeably. However, Bangladesh’s bowlers injected a sense of uncertainty, rattling the Sri Lankan top order.
Taskin Ahmed orchestrated a perfect inswinger to dismantle Dimuth Karunaratne’s stumps, while Shoriful Islam exploited the outside edge of Pathum Nissanka’s bat, resulting in a crucial catch behind the wickets. When Kusal Mendis fell to Shakib Al Hasan’s delivery, Sri Lanka was reeling at 43 for 3, necessitating a stabilizing partnership.
The duo of Sadeera Samarawickrama and Charith Asalanka admirably accepted the responsibility of steering their team out of this challenging situation. Employing a cautious approach, they steadily accumulated runs through singles and timely boundaries.
Their partnership of 78 runs for the fourth wicket infused Sri Lanka with the much-needed impetus. Although Samarawickrama’s dismissal cast a momentary shadow, Sri Lanka’s victory was all but secured.
Asalanka, demonstrating maturity beyond his years, anchored the chase and gracefully notched up a well-deserved half-century. With his composed demeanour, Asalanka guided his team to a triumphant finish, effectively concluding a crucial win in a fiercely contested Group B, comprising three formidable teams.