Targeting England Under-19 batsmen’s ‘genetical’ flaw against spin in sub-continental conditions, Sri Lanka unleashed an army of tweakers and came away with a dominating performance in a six-wicket win at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium in Dhaka on Sunday (February 7) to advance to the semifinal of the Under-19 World Cup 2016, where they face India on February 9.
Brad Taylor, the England captain, had exuded confidence in the lead-up to the fixture and reckoned that a recent tour of Sri Lanka gave them a good insight into their opposition’s strengths and weaknesses but a tentative approach to as much as 42.2 overs of spin from their own batsmen left the side exposed.
Charith Asalanka, the Sri Lankan skipper, started with spin from one end but it was Asitha Fernando, the right-arm pacer, who did the early damage with a bit of early swing. In the space of six deliveries, Asitha dismissed both openers – Daniel Lawrence and Max Holden – putting early pressure on England. Reduced to 18 for 2 in the seventh over, Jack Burnham, the twin centurion and second-placed on the list of leading run-scorers in the tournament, began the rescue work with Callum Taylor.
Despite making early inroads, Asitha did not get a second spell to bowl, while Charana Nanayakkara, another right-arm pacer featuring in his first game of the tournament, bowled one over. The ploy of relentless spin bowling from both ends worked like a magic for Asalanka as the first cracks in England’s brittle batting appeared with Burnham’s departure. For a batsman who has scored runs in heaps in the tournament, Burnham fell to poor shot selection, showing his inability to play spin. Wanidu Hasaranga, right-arm leg break bowler, tossed one up and lured Burnham to reach it. Burnham tried to whip the ball against the turn but ended up inside edging it onto his stumps to leave his dressing room a bit uneasy.
Nervousness against spin was common template for the batsmen that followed as none managed to put the pressure back on Sri Lanka. They were either caught on the crease, unaware of what the ball would do after pitching and became victims of close-in catchers of LBWs or were caught in deep, while trying to hit their way out of technical ineptness.
Taylor, who fought hard to weather the storm to good effect, was undone by a poor umpiring call and his own iffy judgement. He moved slightly back and across in his attempt to put away a flat delivery from Asalanka at length, and was struck on the pad in line. The umpire did not hesitate to raise his finger but the ball seemed to have pitched outside the leg stump. England slid from 82 for 4 in the 23rd over to 125 for 6 in the 36th as none of the batsmen could find their way out of the Sri Lankan spin maze.
Sri Lanka were immensely-disciplined on the field, not allowing England even a sniff at a possible comeback with the bat. George Barlett tried his bit but had to take the long walk back to the hut thanks to an scintillating piece of catching in the deep by Thilan Nimesh. The Sri Lanka overran while trying to cover ground on a big heave from Barlett but timed his jump to perfection and took a superb two-handed catch in mid-air. Ben Green and Taylor attempted revival with futility as Sri Lanka wrapped up the innings for 184 in 49.2 overs in just two-and-a-half-hours.
The Sri Lankan openers looked at ease against the English pace duo of Sam Curran and Saqib Mahmood as the slow wicket allowed the batsmen to squat away length deliveries on the front foot. Avishka Fernando belted Curran for four boundaries in an over as Sri Lanka went into lunch break at 51 for no loss in 8 overs.
Even with the introduction of a spinner, there was no change of fortunes when play resumed after recess as Fernando and Kaveen Bandara continued to eat into the deficit. A wicket came, against the run of play, when the two batsmen tried to pinch a single and the cover fielder threw down the stumps at the non-striker’s end. Avishka continued to play his strokes, even as England picked up a couple of more consolatory wickets. With the game and the semifinal spot all but sealed, Avishka fell just five short of a century and fell trying to play a late pull short off a slower bouncer and edged it to the keeper. His excellent innings of 95, however, helped Sri Lanka canter to a six-wicket win with 14.2 overs to spare.
Brief scores: England 184 in 49.2 overs (Callum Taylor 42; Wanidu Hasaranga 3-34, Asitha Fernando 2-16) lost to Sri Lanka 186-4 in 35.4 overs (Avishka Fernando 95; Charith Asalanka 34; Daniel Lawrence 1-33) by 6 wickets. (Courtesy Cricbuzz)