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Can Ireland put brakes on Sri Lanka’s Kusal Mendis


Sri Lanka’s opening day shocker against Namibia and Ireland’s dire loss to Zimbabwe now seem a long way in the past. Both teams won back-to-back games, Sri Lanka routinely, and Ireland spectacularly, to bounce back and make it into the Super12 stage of the World Cup.

Momentum has swung the way of both teams, both can play spoilsport in their group and their match on Sunday, despite the Lankans being heavy on-paper favourites, should be a tight contest.

Key matchups:

Sterling, Balbirnie vs Theekshana, Kumara
After losing Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Kumara has deputised in fine fashion for Sri Lanka, and Maheesh Theekshana’s prowess in the powerplay makes the side potent to take early wickets. But if Ireland’s innings against West Indies is any indicator, they are up against it.

Paul Stirling, Ireland’s highest runscorer, played himself into form with a match-winning innings to blow the West Indies bowlers in the opening powerplay. His experience, coupled with captain Andy Balbirnie’s aggression (he had 518 T20I runs at a strike rate of 132 this year), could be a handful for the Lankans in the early overs.

Hasiranga vs middle order

The Lankans heaviest bowling card across their group-stage games at the Geelong was Wanindu Hasiranga’s ability to curb runs in the middle overs, and pick up crucial middle-order wickets.

Ireland have experience in Hobart, and the different conditions will not aid the spinners just as much, but regardless, their middle order will be wary of taking on Hasiranga. Curtis Campher has been crucial in the middle overs for the Irish – his 32-ball 72 against Scotland is the reason they have made it to the Super12 – and he usually holds his own against spin. That matchup may well alter the result of the match.

Mendis vs Little, Adair

Kusal Mendis had his doubters coming into the World Cup, but his match-winning 44-ball 79 in their must-win match against Netherlands would have put those doubts to rest. The Lankans have depended on early runs from Mendis more often than not in crunch games, and Ireland pacers Josh Little and Mark Adair – who have opened their bowling in each of their group matches – will have one primary task: to get the wicket of Mendis.

Six-Lust

Six-hitting is not exactly an easy task in Australia this year, but in their 3 group-stage games, Ireland have cleared the ropes 14 times, half of which came just against the Windies. Sri Lanka have hit 12 sixes in their three group-stage games.

Recent form

Despite having similar momentum, winning their last two games to qualify for the Super12, the two teams were in polar opposite form prior to the group stages. Sri Lanka had won 6 T20Is on the trot, and won the Asia Cup. Ireland, on the other hand, had won just 3 out of their last 10 T20Is.





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