Dasun’s magic in Pallekele | Sunday Observer

Dasun’s magic in Pallekele

19 June, 2022

Generally, miracles happen in fairy tales. But last Saturday, June 11 a total miracle happened at Pallekele international cricket stadium when Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka snatched a dramatic victory from Australia in the last three overs of the 3rd T20I cricket match.

Sri Lanka needed 59 runs in the last 18 balls of the innings, and Shanaka and Chamika Karunarathne scored 22 runs in the 18th over, 18 runs in the 19th over and 19 runs in the 20th over, thus grabbing the most unlikely victory in T20I cricket history in the presence of packed and uproarious Pallekele crowd.

Apart from winning the match, the pair also set up a world record by successfully chasing 59 runs in the last three overs, surpassing the previous record of 56. What makes the innings all the more incredible is that it quite literally came out of nowhere.

Challenging target

Australia recorded 176 runs for 5 in their innings, and the top scorers were David Warner (39), Marcus Stoinis (38) and Steven Smith (37). For the first wicket Warner and Aaron Finch scored 43 off 34 balls before Finch’s dismissal for a googly ball by Maheesh Theekshana for 29 off 20 balls with 5 fours. Then, Glen Maxwell and Warner added 42 runs for the second wicket, but Maxwell was dismissed by Wanindu Hasaranga for 16 off 9 balls. As the 3rd wicket, Warner was lbw out by Theekshana for 39 off 33 balls with 6 fours.

Australia were in somewhat trouble in the mid-session of the match where they were 85 for 4 at the end of 10.2 overs. But then, Marcus Stoinis and Steven Smith made a dramatic entrance.

Stoinis pounded Praveen Jayawickrama for a six and two fours in the space of three deliveries, eventually picking up 38 off 23 balls with 3 fours and 1 six. Smith conceded 37* off 27 balls with 2 fours and 2 sixes.

The tourists were 117 for 4 at the end of the 15th over, and then exploded 59 runs off the last five overs. The total of 176 seemed a more than enough winning score, but all went upside down after Dasun Shanaka’s magic.

Collapsing and emerging

The opening pair for Sri Lanka, Dhanushka Gunathilake and Pathum Nissanka, scored 25 runs off 20 balls. Gunathilake was gone as the first wicket for 15 off 12 balls, and then Charith Asalanka was out for 26 off 19 balls with 3 fours and 1 six.

The pair conceded 42 runs for the 2nd wicket. Sri Lanka were 81 for 2 at the end of 10.4 overs, which was a reasonably good position. But then, they lost 4 wickets for 27 runs within 29 balls – the wickets that fell were Pathum Nissanka for 27 off 25 balls, Bhanuka Rajapaksa for 17 off 13 balls, Kusal Mendis for 6 off 8 balls and Wanindu Hasaranga for 8 off 7 balls.

As a result, Sri Lanka were 108/6 after 15.4 overs. They needed 69 more runs in 26 balls to win the match which was an improbable task if there weren’t any magic.

Shanaka came to the crease in the 13th over, and he looked rather out of form, he only scored 6 runs for 12 balls. But something clicked in the 18th over when he went for 22 runs in Josh Hazlewood’s over, who had gone for just three runs in his previous three overs with a maiden. The match looked to be going much the same way as the previous two until Shanaka’s intervention.

Magic begins

In the Hazlewood’s over, Shanaka hit 2 sixes and 2 fours in consecutive balls (6,6,4,4). The 19th over bowled by Jhye Richardson, gave away 18 runs where Shanaka hit a six for the first ball and then four, and also another four by Chamika Karunarathne. They needed to score 19 runs in the final over.

The bowler was Kane Richardson who had given 25 runs in his previous 3 overs. Richardson started with two wides which were not what the Aussies needed at all. The next two balls only gave 2 singles.

Now Sri Lanka had to score 15 runs in 4 balls which asked for four boundaries. Shanaka hit two fours in a row for the next two balls. Now Sri Lanka needed 7 runs off 2 balls. But the next ball upended the whole scenario, he hit a six, leveling the Aussies score of 176 and also reaching 50. One more run needed for Sri Lanka’s victory in the last ball, but that was a wide by Richardson which confirmed Sri Lanka’s win.

So, that was it. Wasn’t it a miracle? According to an ESPN cricinfo’s web commentator, “This match was not just about cricket. It showed us Sri Lankans how to fight back together as a nation. Gave us hope in these difficult times.”

Another commentator wrote: “As the country falls into economic and political turmoil, there comes a captain who gives them hope and happiness. What an incredible innings!”

Another commentator, Uwaisul Karnain, remarked: “This game took my memory back to the Melbourne miracle. This game isn’t too far away either!”

During the presentation ceremony, Aussies captain Aaron Finch also highly praised Shanaka: “…. it was just an unbelievable knock by Dasun tonight.”

Aussies head coach Andrew Mcdonald was quoted in the ESPN as saying that he believed Aussies team had been “really good over a period of time’” before Shanaka changed the course of the game.

Andrew McGlashan, a deputy editor at ESPN cricinfo, wrote in his post match review: “For the third time this year Sri Lanka put Australia’s death bowling under severe pressure defending a target - the stunning chase followed a victory in Melbourne in February and a tie in Sydney which Australia ultimately won in a Super Over.”

Let’s not forget that the Australian team holds the number 1 position in the ICC T20Is’ team ranking. So, this defeat of Australia by a country from number 8 place is a serious blow to the Aussies, which is why they write like above.

In terms of Dasun Shanaka’s batting, it should be mentioned that he ended the match unbeaten on 54 off 25 balls, including 5 fours and 4 sixes. He hunted down 75 off the last five overs, and went into supernova mode, blasting 48 off 13 deliveries after scoring initial six off his first 12 balls in the match.

Well wishes

Among the cricketing fraternity who congratulated the Sri Lanka team, was former cricket captain Mahela Jayawardena. He tweeted: “Fantastic response @dasunshanaka1 for all the critic’s… well done boys. Fantastic win. Believe in the process and the skill.”

Former Sri Lanka cricketer and commentator Russel Arnold said: “Dasun Shanaka becomes the first-ever batter to score over 50 runs in the last three overs of a T20I chase.”

“What a stunning fifty”

Wisden Cricket tweeted: “Dasun Shanaka has just pulled off one of the all-time great T20 heists. Sri Lanka needed 59 off the last three overs against Australia and he was six off 12 and struggling. He then hit 48 off his next 13, with Sri Lanka completing a last-ball victory. Astonishing.”

Yes, this memorable win at Pallekele will be discussed for a long time, but the real challenge is to continue this good performance in the future. If we can do that, it will not be difficult to bring back the past glory of Sri Lanka cricket.