Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie conceded that his side were taken by surprise when Wanindu Hasaranga walked out to bat at number 5 for Sri Lanka in their T20 World Cup Round 1 encounter on Wednesday (October 20). Sri Lanka handed Hasaranga a promotion at a very critical stage when Josh Little put them in trouble by castling both Dinesh Chandimal and Avishka Fernando off successive deliveries in the second over.
At that stage, the Asian side were reeling at 8/3 only for Hasaranga to launch a stunning counter-attack. Hasaranga was severe in particular against spinner Simi Singh, regularly dispatching him for boundaries as Ireland had no clue to stop his assault. Eventually, he made 71 off just 47 balls and was involved in a century stand with the other half-centurion Pathum Nissanka as Sri Lanka went on to post 171.
“Yeah, he obviously took us a bit by surprise by coming in, and look, I thought he played really well,” Balbirnie said after the game. “We obviously set fields that we’ve backed over a couple of years, and he kind of countered that and maybe caught us in the hop a bit, but that’s what happens when you play against world-class cricketers. They can do that to you.
“We maybe could have bowled a bit better to the new men up top, but you’ve got to give them credit. But certainly, at the halfway stage, we knew if we batted well we’d be there or thereabouts, but we couldn’t really get going with the bat, and it’s disappointing.”
Ireland were always on the backfoot in the run chase as they kept losing wickets at regular intervals to eventually get bowled out for 101. Balbirnie singled out the Sri Lankan pacers for praise and conceded that they were undercooked to handle genuine pace on skiddy surfaces. “We don’t prepare for it, we don’t get wickets like this,” he pointed out. “We don’t get pace like that too often back home. Certainly club cricket, club grounds around the countries, unfortunately, can’t really get wickets like that, but look, the more we go up the levels, and if we go well on Friday next week, it’s only going to get quicker, and we’ve got to adapt quickly.
“They bowled good short balls, but that’s what you expect in international cricket. We’ve got to find ways to cope with that and pretty quickly. We’re perfectly capable of playing quick bowling. I’m not saying we’re not. We’ve played some of the quickest bowlers in the summer back home against South Africa and we did pretty well.
“It’s slightly different out here. It’s sort of skiddier to what we’d be used to, but particularly under the lights it obviously skids on, but I love that challenge and I think a lot of our batters do, getting out there and facing the battle and having balls zinging past your head. That’s what you want to do; that’s the battle you want to be in.”
Following the loss, Ireland will have to now beat Namibia on Friday to guarantee their spot in the Super 12 stage with Sri Lanka becoming the first team from the group to make it through to the next round. “We certainly wanted to come in and win today and potentially put Friday not in the back of our minds but you want to win all the games,” Balbirnie said. “But we came up against a really good Sri Lanka team today and certainly our attention is turning fully on Friday, which becomes pretty much a straight knockout.
“We know their threats and we know they’re a good team. They ran us pretty close in the qualifiers a couple of years ago, and it’s going to be a really good game, two good teams gunning for a huge prize at the end of it. We’ll have a rest day tomorrow and come out to Sharjah on Friday, and look forward to the challenge.”