At the innings break, UAE would have had hopes of a fourth straight win in the tournament, having restricted Sri Lanka to 129 for 8. Those hopes, however, were snuffed out in the first over as Lasith Malinga struck twice to wreck UAE’s chase and ultimately lead his side to a 14-run win. Malinga marked his return to international cricket with a haul of 4 for 26.
The UAE bowlers had done well to restrict Sri Lanka for a less than average score of 129 in Mirpur. In fact the 129 for 8 was one run less than what UAE captain Amjad Javed had said he wanted to restrict his opponents to, after he decided to field. But their batsmen were not as inspired as their bowlers and were shut out for 115 for 9 in 20 overs.
Malinga, playing his first competitive match since November 2015, trapped Rohan Mustafa leg-before off the first ball of the chase with a fast, straight and full ball that was only destined to hit the stumps. Off the last ball of the first over, Mohammad Shahzad was duped by a 113.7 kph slower ball, and was bowled for 1.
Nuwan Kulasekara got into the act, too, removing Muhammad Kaleem and Muhammad Usman in the fourth over. Kaleem lofted one needlessly to mid-off before Usman’s uncharacteristic slog ended in a simple catch to Chamara Kapugedera at first slip. UAE finished the fourth over at 16 for 4.
Shaiman Anwar quickly counter-attacked in the next over, striking Angelo Mathews for fours through midwicket before Swapnil Patil played a pull off Mathews for a beautiful six over the same region.
UAE, however, had more bad news around the corner. Rangana Herath, playing his first T20 international since the 2014 World T20, was brought into the attack and straightaway removed UAE’s last hope, Anwar, with an arm ball that took a thin outside edge on its way to the keeper.
Herath then removed Saqlain Haider in his next over, reducing UAE to 47 for 6 at the halfway mark of their innings. But Patil held firm, hitting Herath for a six, playing a late cut off Milinda Siriwardana for a boundary and taking two fours off Dushmantha Chameera in the 15th over to bring the equation to 53 off the last five overs. Patil kept trying to find the boundaries but he, too, fell to a Malinga slower ball, giving the bowler a simple return catch. Patil top-scored with 37 off 36 balls with the three fours and two sixes, and he added 38 runs for the seventh wicket with Javed, who scored 13 off 18 balls.
Malinga completed his four-wicket haul when he removed Mohammad Naveed in his last over. Kulasekara took 3 for 10 while Herath finished with two.
The first half of the game, however, was an altogether different picture as Javed took three wickets while Naveed and Shahzad picked up two each. Mustafa also took one wicket as Sri Lanka slumped after a strong start.
Sri Lanka had raced to 72 for 1 in the first ten overs but added only 57 in the next ten, for the loss of seven wickets. The first few wickets were down to their eagerness to find the big hits but UAE also curbed the runs at the death, conceding only three fours in the last five overs. They had started well enough with openers Tillakaratne Dilshan and Dinesh Chandimal adding 68 runs before the former was easily caught at the deep square leg boundary to give Javed his first wicket.
Dilshan was hit on the hand and on the helmet in his usual effort to destabilise the bowlers. Siriwardana, who like Chandimal was given a batting promotion, fell to Javed’s short ball two overs later, with Saqlain Haider taking a great running catch at the deep midwicket boundary.
From 79 for 2 in the 12th over, Sri Lanka could have been looking at 200 but Chandimal fell one ball after raising his 50 off 38 deliveries. His knock included seven fours and the only six of Sri Lanka’s innings. Shahzad took a tumbling catch at midwicket on top of the 30-yard ring to send back Chandimal and give Javed his third wicket.
Dasun Shanaka gave Anwar a simple catch at mid-off to make it 98 for 4, and Sri Lanka faltered after Mathews fell leg-before to Mustafa and Shehan Jayasuriya was bowled trying to play a second successive scoop. Shahzad snapped up the wickets of Kapugedera and Kulasekara in the last over to give UAE the momentum and confidence they needed to cause an upset.
That, however, was a bridge too far for the side, who will now look forward to their match against Bangladesh on Friday.