Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanka was impressed with young guns Charith Asalanka and Bhanuka Rajapaksha, who starred in the team's five-wicket win over Bangladesh in their T20 World Cup 2021 Super 12s match on Sunday. The two left-handers scored brisk fifties to guide the team home in a 172-run chase.
Sri Lanka somewhat managed to restrict Bangladesh in the initial overs, and priced out Liton Das (16) and Shakib Al Hasan (10) by the eighth over after having opted to field in hot conditions in Sharjah.
However, opener Mohammad Naim (62) then set the foundation for the Mahmadullah-led side, and partnered for a 73-run stand along with Musfiqur Rahim, before being dismissed in the 17th over. Mushfiqur gave a finishing touch with an unbeaten 57 off 37, and guided his side to 171/4. For Sri Lanka, Chamika Karunaratne, Lahiru Kumara and Binura Fernando scalped a wicket each.
Sri Lanka faced an early blow in their chase, as experienced opener Kusal Perera (1) fell to Nasum Ahmed in the very first over of the innings. Charith Asalanka, who walked in next, stitched a 69-run stand with Pathum Nissanka (24), before the latter fell to Shakib Al Hasan in the ninth over.
The Bangladesh all-rounder, who surpassed Shahid Afridi to become the highest wicket-taker in T20 World Cups, dismissed Avishka Fernando (0) in the same over, and pushed Sri Lanka into further trouble. Wanindu Hasaranga's dismissal soon after reduced Sri Lanka from 71/1 to 79/4.
However, Asalanka (80* off 49) brought up his maiden T20I century, and birthday boy Bhanuka Rajapaksa (53 off 31 balls) accelerated the innings to guide Sri Lanka to their first victory in the Super 12s stage, their fourth straight in the competition.
Skipper Dasun Shanaka was pleased with the youngsters' effort.
"It was not the easiest targets to chase but once batsmen are set, any target can be chased. It was an outstanding innings from Asalanka. It's very important that youngsters step up at this stage, it was really nice to see that," said Shanaka after the match.
Asalanka, who was adjudged Man of the Match for his stellar performance with the bat, was thrilled to have contributed to the win, and lauded Rajapaksa, who played his part.
"It's happy to score a winning knock for my country. I am very happy right now. My friends back home will be very happy right now, they always back. When I faced the first ball, it looked like a good pitch and I backed myself to play my natural game. Rajapaksa played a brilliant knock and he changed the momentum. I want to keep it up and look forward to do the same for my country in the upcoming games," said Asalanka after the match.
Sri Lanka will face Australia next on Thursday, October 28, in Dubai.