It wasn't unexpected but Ireland suffered a 70-run loss to Sri Lanka in their second T20 World Cup Group A game in Abu Dhabi and now face a winner-takes-all clash against Namibia in Sharjah on Friday to determine who will join the Sri Lankans in the Super 12 series.
It had looked so good for Ireland early on. Captain Andy Balbirnie won the toss, decided to field and Paul Stirling got opener Kusal Perera caught brilliantly by Garth Delaney in the covers in the first over.
Josh Little got two in two in the second over with Dinesh Chandimal (6) and Avishka Fernando (0) leaving Sri Lanka in real trouble, three wickets down and only 8 runs on the board.
However, Ireland didn’t drive home that early advantage as Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva took a liking to Simi Singh in particular, hitting four consecutive boundaries to end the powerplay in the sixth over.
Hasaranga, aided by Sri Lankan opener Nissanka, made his 50 off only 38 deliveries as the pair took their side from eight for 3 to 131, with Nissanka reaching his half century off 37 deliveries faced before Hasaranga went for 71 in the 16th over to Mark Adair.
Ireland got the dangerous Rajapaksa for just one with Little taking his third wicket in the 17th over while Little got his fourth in the 19th as Nissanka perished for 61. Sri Lanka ended their 20 overs on 171 for 7, Little the pick of the Irish bowlers with 4 for 23 off his four overs.
In reply, Ireland lost Kevin O’Brien in the first over for just 5 runs and Paul Stirling (7) in the third over before Gareth Delaney was bowled for just 2 in the fifth with Ireland 32 for 3.
And there was no way back for Ireland as the Sri Lankan bowlers turned the screw, Hasaranga, the eventual player of the match, sending down some unplayable googlies upon the Irish batsman, who fell quickly behind the run rate.
Curtis Campher tried his best, making 24 off 28 deliveries, and Balbirnie dug out a 41 from 38 balls but Irish wickets fell as Harry Tector (3) Neil Rock (1) Mark Adair (2) Craig Young (1) and Josh Little just couldn’t work out the Sri Lankan attack and Ireland were all out for 101 in the 19th over.
Earlier, in the other game in Group A, David Wiese produced a stunning knock of 66 off 40 balls as Namibia dug themselves out of a precarious position to beat the Netherlands by six wickets and record their first victory.
They now face Ireland in a decisive clash on Friday at 11am Irish time.