Upal Tharanga smashed his second successive century as Sri Lanka cantered to an easy 114-run win over minnows Zimbabwe and secure a berth in the group stages of the Champions Trophy at Ahmedabad on Tuesday.
The 21-year old southpaw ran amok against a weak Zimbabwean bowling attack, smashing 110 runs off 130 balls and power his side to a competitive 285 for nine, before the Lankan bowlers rolled up their sleeves and finished off the Zimbabwean chase.
It was an all too familiar tale of woes for Zimbabwe as it surrendered meekly to the former champions. Although they managed to last 43 overs of their innings, Zimbabwe were never in the chase as it lost wickets in heap.
In face of a steep run-rate, Zimbabwe were all-out for a paltry 141 runs, signalling an early exit from the competition. The minnows, however, will look forward to the encounter against Bangladesh. A win there would be a much-needed face-saving gesture before the disgruntled team lands home.
After a torrid start where it lost 3 quick wickets, Zimbabwe recovered with a nifty 53-run partnership between Mazkadza and Taylor.
Chasing an improbable 286 to win, both the batsmen applied themselves on the crease and made 30 runs against their name. But, most importantly they saved their side from yet another embarrassment by keeping the bowlers at bay for the most of the powerplay overs.
However, after their defence withered, it did not take much time for the flood gates to open up. Four more wickets in the next few overs; and from a reasonable 82/3, the minnows collapsed to 107/7 in the 27th over.
Earlier, the Zimbabwean tale of woeful batting continued from the previous encounter, as the side lost three early wickets with just 23 runs on board.
Malinga and Perera were at their fiery bet, but the batters further stacked the odds against themselves with a pathetic batting display.
Rinke fell in almost similar fashion, like he did against West Indies, with the ball crashing into his stumps. Mufambisi, at the other end, slashed hard to an away-going delivery, but could only manage to find Jayawardene at second slip.
Next up, Chibhabha followed back quickly without troubling the scorers much.
Upal Tharanga smashed his second successive century to power Sri Lanka to a 285-run total in the 3rd qualifying match of the Champions Trophy against Zimbabwe at Ahmedabad.
The 21-year old southpaw ran amok against a weak Zimbabwean bowling attack, smashing 110 runs off 130 balls. But it was his mammoth 165-run stand with Sangakkara for the third wicket that took the game away from the minnows.
Sangakkara (80 runs off 86 balls) played another stellar innings, replete with grit, determination. The duo joined forces in the 11th over after Zimbabwe gave Sri Lanka a rude wake up call in the first ten overs of the powerplay when it scalped two big wickets.
From 40/2, the two carried on like an unstoppable juggernaut, pouncing on anything even a tad short and wide. Spinners or pacers, both were met with utter disdain. The partnership climaxed in the 39th over, with scoreboard reading 214 runs.
However, thereafter, the lower order failed to capitalize on the outstanding partnership, leading to blip in Sri Lankan progress. Atapattu stayed till the end but could not ensure a 300-plus target for the Zimbabweans to chase, which looked like a certainity at one stage.
After having won the toss and rightly deciding to bat first on the firm Motera pitch, the islanders hoped to get off to a flying start and then build on the platform - an ideal way to get good batting practice before the group stages.
However, the Sri Lankan openers were kept reasonably subdued owing to the sharp fielding by close-in fielders and line-and-length fare dished out by the Zimbabwean bowlers.
Jayasuriya, in particular looked intent on just biding his time away on the crease. No streaky flicks to deep fine-leg or smashing cuts over point, meant that the Lankans failed to exploit the first powerplay.
For Prosper Utseya, the icing on the cake came when Jayasuriya backed up too far at the non-striker's end and was caught napping by Chigumbura, whose quick pick and throw took the stumps.
Lankan captain - Mahela Jayawardene - came in next and looked to stamp his authority on the proceedings. But an audacious slash at an Anthony Ireland delivery brought about his downfall with Sri Lanka down two wickets for 49 runs on the board.
Upul Tharanga, though, managed to do what his captain could not. Coming straight from a crafty century, he kept up the tempo going for the Lankan innings, maneuvering the ball in the gaps and hitting the occasional boundary.
His partnership with Sangakkara proved to be much-awaited shot in the arm for Sri Lanka as the duo put on a mammoth run-stand and rode over the blues.
Sri Lanka Team
Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Sanath Jayasuriya, Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara, Marvan Atapattu, Tilakaratne Dilshan, Ferveez Maharoof, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando, Muttiah Muralitharan and Ruchira Pereira
Prosper Utseya (capt), Justice Chibhabha, Elton Chigumbura, Anthony Ireland, Tafadzwa Kamungozi, Hamilton Masakadza, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Piet Rinke, Tafadzwa Mufambisi, Brendan Taylor and Tawanda Mupariwa