T20 World Cup: Mendis half century helps Sri Lanka crush Ireland in Super 12 opener

Opening batsman scores 68 off 43 balls after bowlers restrict Ireland to 128 in nine-wicket win

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Kusal Mendis scored another half-century as Sri Lanka got their T20 World Cup Super 12 campaign underway with a comprehensive nine-wicket win over Ireland in Hobart on Sunday.

Asian champions Sri Lanka restricted Ireland, who qualified for the second round by knocking out two-time champions West Indies, to 128-8 in Hobart.

Spinners Maheesh Theekshana and Wanindu Hasaranga took two wickets each after Ireland chose to bat first.

Mendis then powered his side past their 129-run target with a second successive half-century, scoring 68 off 43 balls, hitting a six to win with five overs to spare.

The wicketkeeper-batsman smashed five fours and three sixes in an unbeaten stand with Charith Asalanka, who made 31, to hand Sri Lanka two points with a good net run-rate.

"The bowlers did really well. The total was low but I played my natural game," said Mendis. "My team asked me to play the first six overs and then contribute till the 10th over. Went for sixes and boundaries. We wanted to get it in 17 overs."

Sri Lanka have turned around their fortunes after being stunned by Namibia in their first-round opener but bounced back to advance to the Super 12, and loom as a dangerous match-up for Australia in Perth on Tuesday with the hosts reeling from their heavy opening loss to New Zealand.

Pace bowler Lahiru Kumara took a wicket with his first ball, bowling Ireland skipper Andy Balbirnie for one with the batsman paying the price for attempting an audacious ramp shot.

Paul Stirling hit some boundaries to steady the Irish innings but partner Lorcan Tucker played one onto his stumps off Theekshana.

Stirling kept up the charge to get a four and six off Chamika Karunaratne and survived a reprieve on 28 after Kumara dropped a catch in the deep. But he did not get away from Bhanuka Rajapaksa who took a good running catch at widish long-off to give Dhananjaya de Silva a wicket in his first over, the ninth of the innings.

Tector hit back in a 47-run partnership with George Dockrell, who made 16 and played despite being Covid positive, in his effort to up the scoring but Sri Lanka kept chipping away from the other end.

Theekshana broke the stand as he bowled Dockrell for 14 and after Binura Fernando denied Tector his fifty the batting caved in.

Hasaranga struck twice in the 19th over with his leg spin as a noisy contingent of Sri Lankan supporters celebrated with drums and music.

The entertainment continued till the end as Sri Lanka had only one minor hiccup, when they lost De Silva for 31, before Mendis and Asalanka carried their bat through.

"Really happy the way we played. That is the kind of cricket we want to play," Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka said. "We knew spinners would play a major role in this game. We used the spinners late tactically in this game. Death bowling is our key area and the start is important - we did that really good. Want to continue with that confidence."

On Mendis' back-to-back fifties, Shanaka added: "He is being consistent and playing according to situation most of the time. That's what he has improved - it is high-class batting. Now we have that luxury."

Updated: October 23, 2022, 7:52 AM