“Lakmal boosted the team’s morale and confidence with his fiery spell”.
The rebuilding Sri Lanka’s cricket fortunes have oscillated between mediocrity and occasional sparks of brilliance in the recent times. At times, they have played like a champion side and inspired confidence as a unit while there have been instances when the same side struggled to get going and looked bereft of oomph. But under the new coach Chandika Hathurusingha, Sri Lanka seem to breathe new life.
After a horrible start to the ongoing Tri-Nation series, where they lost both the opening games, Sri Lanka found some rhythm going in their third encounter against Zimbabwe. Their last match of the series against a high on confidence Bangladesh was no less than a do-or-die encounter for them. They needed a win at any cost in order to make it to the final.
As a unit, Sri Lanka peaked at the very right time, which was the need of the hour. Bangladesh had remained unbeaten in their last three encounters and were oozing with confidence. For Sri Lanka, the hosts were always going to be tough but to crack, especially with the kind of damage inflicted in their previous encounter, winning by 163 runs. Bangladesh had three back to back victories and all with a bonus point, such was the kind of form Bangladesh were in.
Coming to Dhaka, Sri Lanka needed their bowling to step up and deliver. More importantly, their strike bowler Suranga Lakmal to find his rhythm. He wasn’t having a great series and this was an ideal platform for him to rediscover his lost mojo. Lakmal was always going to be the key if Sri Lanka had to put up a fight and seek revenge for their previous drubbing.
Sri Lanka settled the score with some sheer brilliance and gave Bangladesh a taste of their own medicine, winning the contest with a bonus point. There was absolutely no competition whatsoever between both the sides as Sri Lankan bowlers combined extremely well to wreak havoc and were brilliantly led by Lakmal.
Fiery Lakmal in Mirpur
Bangladesh opted to bat first and not many would have expected the kind of storm that was about to strike Dhaka. An early wicket is like gold in any format and Bangladesh needed to make early inroads in this Bangladeshi batting line-up. Lakmal steamed in and got rid of Anamul Haque for a duck, the batsman played a loose stroke and perished without troubling the scorers. Lakmal drew the first blood and Sri Lanka got the start they were looking for.
Moments later, Shakib Al Hasan’s innings was cut short due to some incredible athleticism by Gunathilaka. Tamim Iqbal was in incredible form and his early kill was always going to be a boon for Sri Lanka. Lakmal banged it short and once again Gunathilaka’s brilliance on the field resulted in a wicket. He pulled off an outstanding catch at backward point and sent Tamim back for just 5.
Sri Lanka were tightening the noose around Bangladesh and Lakmal was spilling fire. He executed a solid plan to get rid of Mahmudullah. There was only one fielder patrolling the leg side boundary and Lakmal pitched it short without much of a room as Mahmudullah pulled it straight to Dushmantha Chameera at the leg side boundary.
If someone would have granted Lakmal a wish before this game, he would have most probably wished for this kind of start. Bangladesh were in all sorts of trouble at 34 for 4 inside 11 overs and Lakmal was the tormentor-in-chief. He was unstoppable with the new ball and provided just the kind of start Sri Lanka were looking for.
Lakmal is the kind of a bowler, who knows how to exploit the conditions to the fullest. If there is anything in the surface, Lakmal will squeeze it. This pitch had something for the bowlers and Lakmal did well to get rid of Bangladesh’s top-order. He had all the key scalps to his name and was well supported by other bowlers.
Sri Lanka dismantled Bangladesh for 82. It was a mind-boggling performance by a team who conceded 320 runs in their previous encounter against the same opponent. This is the kind of impact a strike bowler can have if he gets going. Lakmal boosted the team’s morale and confidence with his fiery spell. Sri Lankan openers came out all guns blazing and chased down the target with ease. They won the game with all 10 wickets to spare.
Sri Lanka is rebuilding, and performances like these will infuse confidence in this potent side. They stepped up in the absence of their best player Angelo Mathews and have now sculpted a spot in the final. Under the watchful eyes of Hathurusingha, one can expect this Sri Lankan side to blossom. For now, they will be hoping Lakmal to replicate his magical performance in the final as well and steer his side to command at the outset.