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Sri Lanka pace attack make early statement

Chamika Karunaratne of Sri Lanka celebrates the wicket of David Wiese of Namibia during the ICC Men's T20 World Cup match between Sri Lanka and Namibia at Sheikh Zayed stadium on October 18, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Sri Lanka entered the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 with spinner Wanindu Hasaranga sitting second in the MRF Tyres Men’s T20I Bowling Rankings, yet it was their seamers who stole the show in the opening victory over Namibia.

Sri Lanka entered the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 with spinner Wanindu Hasaranga sitting second in the MRF Tyres Men’s T20I Bowling Rankings, yet it was their seamers who stole the show in the opening victory over Namibia.

Sri Lankan success often comes on the back of great slower bowling – ­think of Muttiah Muralidaran and Ajantha Mendis befuddling the opposition ­– and Hasaranga is very much of that mould.

He gave a taste of his capabilities at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium as he removed the two top-scoring Namibians, Craig Williams (29) and Gerhard Erasmus (20), during an impressive spell of 2/24, while 21-year-old mystery spinner Maheesh Theekshana also shone with three for 25.

Yet it was the performance of the pace attack that will have fans of the Lions roaring their approval, as the unit bowled aggressively and dominated the opposition batting line-up.

A return of 4/45 from 11.3 overs for seam trio Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Kumara, at an economy rate of less than four and with the concession of just a single boundary, is remarkable and speaks to just how much they restricted Namibia.

Karunaratne set the tone from the very first ball as he beat the outside edge of Stephan Baard’s bat and all three bowlers varied their lines and lengths to great effect.

The Namibian top order found themselves peppered with short balls they were unable to deal with. Zane Green was twice hit on the helmet by Chameera, with plenty of other deliveries rearing up into the batters’ ribs as Sri Lanka proved that even in the shortest format of the game, speed can be devastating.

By the end of seven overs, they’d sent down 15 deliveries of over 140kph ­– as many as the six other teams to have played at this ICC Men’s T20 World Cup so far had managed combined.

Namibia’s batters looked continually rushed in their strokes and were unable to score consistently, even when the Lions bowlers went to a more conventional line and length probing outside off stump, but Karunaratne insisted there was no great secret to the seam success.

“From first over, we bowled really well,” explained the opening bowler after restricting Namibia to just 96 from 19.3 overs. “It was just doing the basics.

“Last week, the coaching staff told me I was bowling the first over and they just said do the basics well, the normal out-swing and that’s it.

“There’s a little bit of pace in the wickets because of the dew, which gives some support for the fast bowlers, so they were looking really good. Keeping a team to less than 100 is a good total.”

It’s unlikely that Sri Lanka will be able to restrict every opponent they play to double figures but if their seamers can continue to complement the spin wizardry of Hasaranga and Theekshana, then they may just find themselves with one of the most potent bowling attacks in the entire tournament.

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