Dilshan scripts spectacular title victory

Wednesday, June 09, 2021
© Cricket Nirvana

Sri Lanka carved out a clinical performance to script a spectacular victory to take home the beautiful Swarovski crystal trophy by defeating the host Zimbabwe by nine wickets.

In the final, captain Tillakaratne Dilshan never put a foot wrong. First, he called the coin correctly, bundled out the hosts for a modest 199 and then led the team to score 203 for 1 with 15.2 overs to spare.

Dilshan stamped his class on the final with an impressive batting performance, scoring an unbeaten 108. He reached his maiden century against the host the way he had begun his innings — with a cracking square cut to the fence.

Sri Lanka needed a good start and that’s what openers Dilshan and Upul Tharanga (72) ensured. They turned the heat on the Zimbabwean bowling attack and raced off to 63 for no loss in the first 10 overs. Such was the domination of the two batsmen that boundaries flowed generously, with one coming every over. The duo went on to put on a staggering 160-run partnership.

Dilshan started his innings in characteristic fashion, cracking a boundary through the mid-wicket off medium-pacer Chris Mpofu. It was only an indication of things to follow, as the skipper buried the bowling attack under a flurry of strokes all over the park. He would often charge down against the spinners and hit them for a boundary, almost at will. The Lankan captain cracked 14 boundaries during his sparkling knock and finished the match with one. The 102-ball effort won him the man-of-the-match award. However, the man-of-the-series was bagged by Brendon Taylor for his spectacular batting effort through the series though he disappointed in the final.

On the other end, Tharanga also played an attacking knock. Initially, he was vigilant but later opened his shoulders to good affect. He would often dance down the wicket and loft spinners out of the park. The lanky opener’s innings was peppered with eight boundaries and a six. 

After inserting Zimbabwe into bat, the Lankan bowlers tied down the openers Masakadza and Taylor with splendid exhibition of swing bowling. Dilhara Fernando was particularly impressive, often enticing batsmen into false shots.

However, it was Nuwan Kulasekara, who while moving the ball both ways, got the early breakthrough. He dismissed Masakadza (4) with a beauty. A leg-cutter surprised the batsman with the bounce and the edge found itself into the gloves of keeper Dinesh Chandimal. The host were 11 for 1 after 5 overs.

The man-in-form Brendon Taylor was shaping up well, showing both patience and purpose to make up for the early damage. He played with a straight bat and left anything that was wide. However, his vigil didn’t last long, as Dilhara, who was threatening to take a wicket any time, finally got one. But it wouldn’t have been possible without the brilliant effort of Samaraweera, who took a breathtaking catch in the slip, diving to his right to pick up the ball just inches above the ground. Taylor, who was man-of-the-match in three of the four matches, perished cheaply for 19.

Lankan bowlers were relentless on the slowish track, hardly giving any room to the batsmen to step up the momentum. And the pressure resulted in a mix-up, which sent Craig Ervine back to the dressing room. Zimbabwe were well and truly in a spot of bother with three batsmen back in the hut with the scoreboard reading just 49 in the 17th over.

It was here that keeper-batsman Tatenda Taibu took over and brought some sanity to the innings. Taibu did try to step on the gas and in one over of off-spinner Suraj Randiv he executed two delightful inside-out lofted cover drives to the fence. Taibu went on to score a fine half-century (71) and shared a 90-run crucial partnership with Lamb to bail Zimbabwe from 49 for 3 to 139 for 4. On the other hand, Lamb fought like a ram and scored a useful 37.

Dilhara was the pick among the bowlers, finishing with an impressive figure of 36 for 3 in 9 overs.

Zimbabwe failed to make use of death overs, including the batting power play. The last 10 overs produced only 44 runs for 6 wickets.