The opener’s unbeaten 101 and captain Kamindu Mendis’ all-round show helped the young lions see off Ireland in Group D encounter.
Sri Lanka U19 208/3 (Lakshan 101*, Mendis 74*) beat Ireland U19 207/8 (Grassi 75; Mendis 3/35) by 7 wickets with 10.3 overs remaining
On winning the toss in their Group D opener, Ireland captain Harry Tector declared that he wanted his team to post a tall total and put scoreboard pressure on Sri Lanka. They could have done better on both counts.
Dhananjaya Lakshan’s unbeaten 101 and captain Kamindu Mendis’s unbeaten 74 ensured the young Lankan lions didn’t stumble in their first 2018 ICC U19 CWC encounter at the Cobham Oval in Whangarei. Their unbroken 157-run stand helped Sri Lanka win by seven wickets.
Ireland’s Jamie Grassi had scored a 75 and added 73 for the opening partnership with Mark Donegan (36). It had set them up well for big total, but a middle-order slide – with Mendis returning 3/35 – meant they were restricted to 207/8 in a match that was reduced to a 48 overs a side after rain delayed play by an hour.
The Ireland bowlers did put Sri Lanka under the pump, and for a while it seemed as though they would go on to contain them. Sri Lanka were reduced to 9/2 within four overs, with Aaron Cawley inducing edges off both Hasitha Boyagoda and Nipun Dhananjaya. Boyagoda was caught behind for nought, while Dhananjaya’s outside edge ended up with Neil Rock at first slip.
Krishan Sanjula joined Lakshan and attempted to stage a recovery, but the runs came at a crawl. They crossed the 50-run mark only in the 12th over, and with every dot ball, the pressure compounded, not helped by constant Ireland chatter. When Max Neville had Sanjula caught behind for a 17, Sri Lanka were staring at defeat at 51/3.
Captains lead by example and lift their followers in times of troubles. That’s exactly what Mendis did. He didn’t let the Ireland bowlers weigh him down. Instead, he attacked as soon as he entered the field. There were boundaries in the two overs immediately after his arrival, and the running between wickets was exceptional. Most mis-fields and overthrows were capitalised on, leading to more fielding lapses.
With his captain scoring freely, the pressure on Lakshan eased as well. The shackles were abandoned, and he played his shots – a lot of his runs came on the leg-side, his expertise with the pull particularly noteworthy. He brought up his half-century, and then accelerated further. It was soon a two-pronged attack, and the Irish shoulders dropped.
Mendis brought up his half-century off just 53 balls, before Lakshan entered the nineties. There was an attack of cramps, but he didn’t let that bother him – the century was brought up off just 116 balls, a knock comprising eight fours and a six. It was Mendis, the game-changer, who fittingly scored the winning runs.
Earlier, the Sri Lankan pacemen, Thisaru Rashmika and Nipun Malinga, didn’t allow the Ireland batsmen to capitalise on any loose deliveries. For their part, the batsmen steered clear of risks, and concentrated on running between the wickets. They were excellent in that regard, so much that they put the pressure on Sri Lanka despite infrequent boundaries. After four bowlers tried and failed to break the stand, the Sri Lankan captain took matters into his own hands – Mendis cramped Mark Donegan for room, and clipped the top of his stumps.
The wicket came at a bad time for Ireland, and they encountered a slide. Morgan Topping managed just a 22-ball 8 before running himself out and was soon joined back in the pavilion by Tector (6), again run out after poor communication. Grassi completed his half-century off 86 balls, but with wickets falling around him, he felt the responsibility to up the ante. His attempt at enterprise ended in his fall, though, as he slashed Daniel straight to cover.
Sam Murphy and Graham Kennedy then managed to grind 22 for the fifth wicket, before departing in quick succession, and for a while, it seemed Ireland wouldn’t touch 200. However, Joshua Little’s 19-ball 25, which included a mammoth six off Jehan Daniel over long-on, helped boost the total. They could have done with a few more of those.
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