Theekshana and Nissanka provide Sri Lanka an invitation to the ODI World Cup

Sri Lanka had an easy time chasing after Pathum Nissanka's second ODI century

Pathum Nissanka unbeaten 101 helped Sri Lanka defeat Zimbabwe by nine wickets in the Super Six match, securing their place at the ODI World Cup in India later this year. Sri Lanka’s achievement on the bowling field was also aided by its clinical bowling performance. 

A 68-run partnership between Sean Williams and Sikandar Raza, which condemned Zimbabwe to their first loss in the 2023 ODI World Cup Qualifier, served as the catalyst for the victory. The bowlers then staged a batting collapse on each side of that partnership, which helped set up the victory.

In a matchup between the best batting squad and the greatest bowling side in the competition, Sri Lanka’s new-ball bowling against Zimbabwe’s top order was the day’s most notable play. In only seven overs, Dilshan Madushanka shredded Zimbabwe’s top order, sending them tumbling.

After being brought in as a replacement for the injured Dushmantha Chameera, the left-arm quick, who was only playing in his second game of the competition, caused difficulty for the hitters with his movement and length changes. 

Joylord Gumbie, the wicketkeeper-batter, was caught flicking at short midwicket by him in his first over, giving him the breakthrough. He then unexpectedly startled Wessly Madhevere with a quick bumper, causing him to top-edge a pull to mid-off.

As Zimbabwe reached 30 for 3 in the seventh over, Madushanka had Craig Ervine poke at a full ball that straightened after being pitched outside off in the fourth over of his stint. He could have caught Williams at long leg, but Matheesha Pathirana, who was substituted in for the injured Lahuru Kumara, missed a straightforward opportunity.

Williams and he were content to pass the time as Raza got underway with a superbly timed square drive, while Williams and he were glad to wait while they got their eye in. They received some assistance from an errant Pathirana, who bowled seven wides in his first two overs. 

The next move was to throw Dhananjaya de Silva and Wanindu Hasaranga off balance using Raza and Williams’ feet. Prior to cover-driving Hasaranga in the subsequent over, Williams initially slog-swept Dhananjaya through midwicket. After greeting Hasaranga with a pulled six over midwicket, Raza dove down to bludgeon Dhananjaya over the top.

However, Dasun Shanaka broke the hold when he had Raza slash across the line off a short ball, only for Madushanka to pull off a diving catch at long leg. Prior to Maheesh Theekshana starting his performance, Williams quickly surpassed his fifth fifty-plus score in the competition.

Theekshana first moved through Williams’ defenses before replicating the move against Ryan Burl in the following over. After Luke Jongwe was out by line-drive, he trapped Blessing Muzarabani to end the inning. In the meantime, Pathirana dispatched Brad Evans and Richard Ngarava to continue Sri Lanka’s record of removing each of their opponents in the Qualifier for less than 200.

When Evans struck him at short midwicket off Ngarava as Dimuth Karunaratne was chasing 166, he was given an early chance to recover. With a 103-run stand for the first wicket after that, he and Pathum Nissanka ended the chase. As soon as he took his time getting set, Nissanka displayed exceptional strokeplay. In order to go into another gear, he played three beautiful strokes of an Evans.

With over 17 overs remaining, Nissanka sent Sri Lanka on their way to India with a 102-ball unbeaten innings that featured 14 fours. This was Nissanka’s second ODI century.

In contrast, Zimbabwe’s final Super Six match will pit them against Scotland, with the winner securing a ticket at the ten-team World Cup in India. Sri Lanka’s final match is against the West Indies.

Sri Lanka 169 for 1 (Nissanka 101*, Karunaratne 30) beat Zimbabwe 165 (Williams 56, Raza 31, Theekshana 4-25, Madushanka 3-15) by nine wickets