Tharanga fires Sri Lanka
Upul Tharanga’s second successive century helped Sri Lanka to a 144-run victory over Zimbabwe in their ICC Champions Trophy qualifier in Ahmedabad.
The 21-year-old opener, who hit 105 against Bangladesh at the weekend, was even more impressive in scoring 110 off 130 balls, his sixth one-day hundred in only his 31st match.
Left-hander Tharanga shared a third-wicket partnership of 165 in 169 balls with Kumar Sangakkara (80 off 86 balls) as Sri Lanka improved from a steady start to post 285 for seven.
The target was always going to be a tall order for Zimbabwe, but it was made more difficult after they slipped to 23 for three in the seventh over.
Tafadzwa Mufambisi was dropped by Mahela Jayawardene at first slip off Lasith Malinga in the opening over but the same combination accounted for Mufambisi in the third over, the Sri Lanka captain clutching the ball high above his head.
Piet Rinke had departed by then, playing on to a Ruchira Perera inswinger - and Chamu Chibhabha followed after edging Malinga to Tillakaratne Dilshan at third slip.
Hamilton Masakadza and Brendan Taylor (30) staged a recovery with a stand of 63 in 12 overs, before the latter was undone by one which nipped back from Dilhara Fernando.
Three balls later Masakadza (30) edged Farveez Maharoof to Sangakkara, and the comical run-out of Elton Chigumbura left Zimbabwe reeling on 89 for six.
From there it was downhill as Zimbabwe were bowled out for 141 in 42.3 overs.
Earlier, Tharanga was unaffected by the loss of Sanath Jayasuriya - run out after backing up too far - and Jayawardene as he and Sangakkara laid the foundations for a big total.
Sangakkara passed 5,000 one-day runs early in his innings, while Tharanga brought up his half-century with a four off Rinke in the 16th over.
Three overs later a Tharanga cover drive pushed the total past 100 but, as Zimbabwe’s slower bowlers stemmed the run rate, Sri Lanka reached the halfway point at 113 for two.
From here the pair picked up the pace, and Sangakkara, who was particularly aggressive, took his partnership with Tharanga into three figures.
The wicketkeeper-batsman’s half-century was quickly followed by Tharanga, driving a three through the off side to record back-to-back hundreds.
Tharanga eventually departed in the 39th over, bowled slogging at off-spinner Stuart Matsikenyeri, who then caught Sangakarra off Chamu Chibhabha, but an unbeaten 33 off 30 balls from Marvan Atapattu maintained Sri Lanka’s late momentum.
Sri Lanka’s biggest problem, on a day when their opponents did not seriously test them, was a swarm of flies which troubled the bowlers after dusk.
Jayawardene said: “A couple of the fast bowlers struggled, especially Dilhara - they seemed to like him.”
“Overall, we played pretty good cricket. We were pretty happy with our day’s work.
“I think our guys played some pretty smart cricket - especially Kumar and Upul after we lost a couple of wickets.”
Zimbabwe vice-captain Matsikenyeri had less to smile about.
“We came here wanting to play positive cricket but we did not do that enough,” he said. “We lost too many wickets at the wrong times.”