Avishka Fernando hit 95 off 96 balls after Wanidu Hasanranga grabbed three wickets as Sri Lanka entered the semi-finals of the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup 2016 with an impressive six-wicket win over England in Mirpur on Sunday. In an excellent all-round performance, Sri Lanka dismissed the strong England batting for 184 and then surpassed the modest target in the 36th over. Sri Lanka will take on India in the first semi-final in Mirpur on Tuesday.
The second semi-final on Thursday will feature host Bangladesh against the winner of Monday’s Pakistan-West Indies match. This is only the third time Sri Lanka has reached the semi-final of this tournament since its inception in 1988. In the home event in 2000, it reached the final where it lost to Mohammad Kaif’s India, while in 2010 in New Zealand, Sri Lanka reached the last four and finished in fourth position.
England failed to match its earlier run-feast in Group C where it raked up totals of 371/3 against Fiji, 282/7 against the West Indies and 288/4 against Zimbabwe. Callum Taylor top-scored with 42 after England won the toss and elected to bat, but the rest of the batting fell apart against the sustained pressure applied by the Sri Lanka bowlers. Leg-spinner Hasaranga finished with 3/34 after seamer Asitha Fernando had wrecked the start with two dismissals.
Sri Lanka made a breezy start to its reply, racing to 51/0 in eight overs before the lunch break, with Fernando contributing 35 of those runs. Kaveen Bandara helped Fernando put on 76 for the first wicket by the 14th over when he was run out for 22. Fernando hit 11 boundaries and a six to steer Sri Lanka towards an emphatic win before he was caught behind off Saqib Mahmood when just 14 runs were needed for victory in 17 overs.
Skipper Charith Asalanka, who put on 69 for the third wicket with Fernando, fell for 34 soon after, but Sri Lanka cruised home easily. Asalanka said he was delighted to see his team bounce back after losing to Pakistan in the last league match. He says: ‘We had not batted well against Pakistan, so it was important to settle down and build big scores, which is what Avishka was able to do today. But the bowlers won us the game today. We bowled well and fielded very well too. But the plus point is that we have improved our batting.’
Asalanka says Sri Lanka will test India with spin in the semi-final: ‘We know India players are good facing spin, but spin is our strength and we will stick to that. We are confident of doing well in the semi-final.’ England captain Brad Taylor said he was disappointed to lose after his team did so well in the league stage. Taylor says: ‘I genuinely believe we had an off-day. You have days when it does not come off. I think Sri Lanka played very well, but on another day, we would back ourselves. We expected Sri Lanka to rely on spin, but the batsmen did not stay long enough to build partnerships. We had come here to win the tournament, so obviously we are very disappointed.’
Photo credit: ©ICC/Mumit M