Sadeera Samarawickrama displayed unwavering composure in his unbeaten half-century as he guided Sri Lanka to a clinical five-wicket win over the Netherlands and secure their first victory in this World Cup, here on Saturday.
South African-born Sybrand Engelbrecht (70) and Logan van Beek (59) led a remarkable recovery with maiden half-centuries to help the Netherlands post a fighting 262 after they opted to bat.
In reply, Dutch off-spinner Aryan Dutt (3/44) snared Kusal Perera (5) and skipper Kusal Mendis (8) inside the powerplay, but Sri Lanka never lost sight of the target on a dry and spinning Ekana pitch with Samarawickrama anchoring their chase without taking any risks.
Lending solidity to the middle-order, Samarawickrama, who slammed a maiden ODI hundred against Pakistan earlier, got to a well-deserved half-century — his sixth in ODIs — in 53 balls en route to his unbeaten knock of 91 to seal Sri Lanka’s chase with 10 balls to spare.
This was bottom-placed Sri Lanka’s first win after enduring three losses on the trot in the 10-team showpiece event.
Pathum Nissanka (54; 52b) came up with a third straight half-century to set it up before Samarawickrama and Charith Asalanka took the chase away from the Netherlands in a 77-run fourth-wicket stand.
For the Dutch bowlers, the execution was missing unlike their upset win over South Africa at Dharamsala three days back.
They either strayed on the leg, or bowled wide on the off-stump even as the Lankan batters were happy to take singles and twos to keep the required run-rate near the five-run mark.
The left-handed Asalanka hit two boundaries and the only six of the innings when he broke the shackles and stepped out to punish Dutt.
Just when the Lankan duo of Samarawickrama and Asalanka was in cruise mode, Dutt broke the partnership cleaning up the left-hander in his last over that also pumped up the Dutch camp.
But without any scoreboard pressure — 82 required off 104 balls — the seasoned Dhananjaya de Silva played sensibly, rotating the strike to give the well-set Samarawickrama more opportunities.
The duo, however, failed to complete the chase as De Silva got out in the 47th over after being bowled by Colin Ackermann.
But there were no further mishaps and it was Dushan Hemantha who hit the winning runs, hitting Acerkmann for a boundary in the penultimate over.
Earlier, the 35-year-old Engelbrecht, who had retired from all forms of cricket after playing for Cape Cobras in South Africa in 2016 only to be back playing for the Netherlands, was at his best during a gritty 82-ball 70.
Engelbrecht, who came in at No 7, hit one six and four fours in his knock and shared a 130-run partnership with No 8 batter Logan van Beek. Van Beek also secured a maiden fifty as the pair turned the tide for the Dutch after they were reeling at 91 for six in the 22nd over.
Comeback man Kasun Rajitha (4/50) and their in-form left-arm pacer Dilshan Madushanka (4/49) were the pick of the Lankan bowlers but they lacked support at the other end as the Dutchmen made rapid progress following their seventh-wicket partnership.
Fifteen years after a young Engelbrecht in Proteas colours took a flying catch to dismiss Virat Kohli in India’s U-19 World Cup triumph in 2008, the Dutch all-rounder is living a dream.
Playing top-tier cricket did not seem realistic for Engelbrecht as he slipped into oblivion while pursuing his MBA.
But he picked the bat again after his family moved to the Netherlands in 2021, and head coach Ryan Cook gave him an ODI debut against New Zealand in the World Cup.
Engelbrecht’s moment of reckoning came here when he led a stunning recovery using his wealth of experience.
In a clash between the two bottom-rung teams, Sri Lanka held the upper hand by reducing the Netherlands to 91/6.
On a high after their stunning upset win over South Africa four days back, Netherlands skipper Scott Edwards had opted to bat after winning the toss but things unfolded differently.
Engelbrecht, however, refused to buckle under pressure and took charge of the proceedings, taking the spin duo of Dushan Hemantha and Dhananjay de Silva to the cleaners in the middle overs.
Sri Lanka let the game slip away from their grasp by not bringing back their pace duo of Madushanka and Rajitha, who returned as late as in the 40th over.
The Lankan pace duo had built up pressure by dismissing the Dutch top-five inside 19 overs.
(Published 21 October 2023, 13:01 IST)