World Cup 2023: South Africa's woes, Sri Lanka faces more hardship against the record-breaking Pakistan.


World Cup 2023: South Africa’s woes, Sri Lanka faces more hardship against the record-breaking Pakistan.

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After setting a record for conceding the highest number of runs against South Africa, Sri Lanka continued to struggle as Pakistan reached the highest target in World Cup history.

By Tanuj Lakhina Last Updated: October 11, 2023, 08:16:10 IST

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Sri Lanka has found itself on the wrong side of two significant milestones in the World Cup. On October 7 in Delhi, they were dealt a heavy blow by South Africa, who piled on 428 runs, marking the highest total in Men’s Cricket World Cup history. Just 1500 kilometers to the south, in Hyderabad on October 10, Sri Lanka allowed Pakistan to successfully chase down 345 runs, establishing a new record for the highest target achieved in a Men’s Cricket World Cup. In just two matches, Sri Lanka’s bowling has conceded a total of 773 runs.

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The emotions on Kusal Mendis’ face spoke volumes as Pakistan secured victory on Tuesday. Mendis had displayed heroics by scoring 122 runs, with Sadeera Samarawickrama also notching up a century. However, the disappointment was evident as he looked skywards, realizing that Sri Lanka had lost both of their World Cup matches. In contrast, Pakistan extended their flawless record against Sri Lanka in World Cup matches to 8-0.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Mohammad Rizwan sprinted for the decisive run despite being physically hampered just a few overs earlier. He had collapsed to the ground after hitting a six, tossing his gear aside in pain, seemingly grappling with cramps. The physiotherapists rushed onto the field to provide assistance while the batter winced in discomfort.

With the finish line in sight, he celebrated his century with a swift gesture—simply discarding his bat, kneeling to the ground, and offering a silent prayer. The challenge, however, remained unfinished.

It was almost poetic that Rizwan played the decisive role, collecting easy runs with a deft bat maneuver in the 49th over, effectively sealing the deal in a challenging chase.

“It was a demanding task, and when you chase under such conditions, it’s always exceptional. Every player in the dressing room had the belief that we could achieve this. Essentially, it’s a good pitch, and we decided to approach our innings strategically,” Rizwan explained afterward.

Abdullah Shafique’s contribution to Pakistan’s chase cannot be underestimated. He was called into the playing XI with Fakhar Zaman being dropped. Opening the innings and stepping in as a replacement added extra pressure, despite his recent runs of 2, 7, 19, and 52 not instilling much confidence. Nevertheless, Pakistan entrusted him with this pivotal role.

“I’m very pleased with the way he’s performing. This is his first World Cup, and I saw his dedication in the nets, so I decided to include him,” stated Babar Azam, outlining the reasoning behind Shafique’s selection.

As Shafique reached his century in the 32nd over, with Pakistan requiring 157 runs from 19 overs, the daunting task of chasing down 345 runs became more attainable. Shafique’s controlled batting at a run-a-ball pace, with the potential of achieving eight runs per over, suddenly made the improbable seem plausible.

While Shafique’s presence at the crease was relatively short-lived, dismissed by Matheesha Pathirana, he had already passed on his positive impact to his teammates, who scored 132 runs in the next 15 overs to secure the win.

But where does this leave Sri Lanka? Their bowlers didn’t suffer the same fate as they did against South Africa, but this defeat will undoubtedly sting the 1996 champions. They might have brushed off the brutal onslaught in Delhi as an off day, considering the outstanding form of Aiden Markram, Quinton de Kock, and Rassie van der Dussen. However, this loss feels self-inflicted to some extent.

Sri Lanka squandered numerous opportunities, dropping catches aplenty, with Saud Shakeel surviving twice in a single over from Maheesh Theekshana. Moreover, they conceded 25 runs in wide balls and 26 extra runs in total after falling 20-25 runs short in their own batting innings.

“We should have posted a stronger total. We fell short by 20-25 runs on this pitch. Credit to them; they executed slower balls excellently. I can’t fault the bowlers too much; we gave them straightforward plans. We need to address the issue of extras, as we provided too many. We had our chances in the field, but we missed quite a few today,” remarked Sri Lanka’s skipper Dasun Shanaka during the post-match ceremony.

For Pakistan, this victory could serve as a much-needed confidence boost before facing India on Saturday in Ahmedabad. However, for Sri Lanka, there’s a genuine risk of becoming more defensive and retreating into a shell going forward, a strategy that might not be advisable at this stage.


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