The fate of Sri Lanka at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 hangs in the balance, with a heavy defeat to Namibia in the opening match of the tournament leaving the Asia Cup Champions in need of a huge response in the remaining Round 1 matches.
Shanaka’s side were the overwhelming favourites to progress from Group A and into the Super 12 stage of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022, but the loss on Sunday has thrown a spanner in the works.
“The way we played is the worry,” said Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka after his side’s loss to Namibia on Sunday.
Sri Lanka will now need to avoid any further slip-ups against Netherlands and United Arab Emirates to progress, and could even then see their fortunes come down to run rate permutations.
A 55-run defeat looked a long way off when Sri Lanka had their opponents at 93/6 with less than six overs of the match remaining.
But lackadaisical death bowling, combined with tidy knocks from Jan Frylinck and JJ Smit saw Namibia reach 163/7 from their 20 overs.
"I think they tried too much," Shanaka said of his seam bowlers at the press conference. "We didn't execute our plans well.
"I think we went for the yorkers and we didn't execute with low full tosses and half volleys. I think that's where it went wrong. I think if they had stuck to that hard length, wicket-to-wicket, like the Namibian bowlers did really, really well, it should have been different.”
Sri Lanka had come into the tournament on the back of a fine run of form that saw them lift the Asia Cup. And the Lankans would have been confident given the nature of their crushing victory over Namibia in the same stage of the previous T20 World Cup a year ago.
However, Namibia still made it through to the Super 12 stage in 2021, and captain Gerhard Erasmus said his side have taken great confidence from that experience at the top level.
“I had a sort of childish belief last year before that game, and I think this year it was more something of we've played at the level and we can now mentally relate to this level; we can now physically and skilfully relate to this level,” Erasmus said.
“We've played India, Pakistan, all these teams before. We've seen it, we've tasted it, and because we've closed that gap by becoming one step closer to them and getting the physical feel for what it's like, I think that's really what gave us the belief this time around.”
The Namibia skipper wasn’t convinced by the idea that Sri Lanka got their bowling tactics wrong, but agreed with his opposite number that it was more a case of the Namibian bowlers executing the plans better.
“We just went on to the field on an equal footing to the Sri Lankan side, and we just executed better on the day, I guess. That’s the game of cricket, and I believe we did so for longer periods, hence the result.
“If more opportunities like these arise for associate nations, they've shown over the years that they do close the gap and get to the level, and they're good actually quite quickly.”
Focus will now switch to Tuesday’s second round of group games, where Namibia could put one foot in the Super 12 stage with a win over fellow opening-day winners Netherlands.
For Sri Lanka, their Net RR of -2.750 will be a big concern, and Shanaka will be hoping for a huge response from his side to get points on the board and correct that run rate damage.
Sri Lanka’s remaining Group A fixtures
Tuesday 18 October, 19:00 local time: Sri Lanka vs UAE at Kardinia Park, Geelong
Thursday 20 October, 15:00 local time: Netherlands vs Sri Lanka at Kardinia Park, Geelong
Namibia’s remaining Group A fixtures
Tuesday 18 October, 15:00 local time: Namibia vs Netherlands at Kardinia Park, Geelong
Thursday 20 October, 19:00 local time: Namibia vs UAE at Kardinia Park, Geelong
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