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Sri Lanka by, Ireland face showdown

Sri Lanka have become the first side to qualify from the T20 World Cup first round stage following a resounding 70-run victory over Ireland.

They are set to enter Group 1 in the second phase, alongside Australia, England, South Africa, West Indies and another qualifier.

Ireland’s defeat leaves them facing an eliminator on Friday against Namibia, who defeated Netherlands earlier on Wednesday.

Sri Lanka were on the ropes after lurching to eight for three inside the first 10 balls in Abu Dhabi and were grateful for a decisive 123-run stand between Pathum Nissanka and Wanindu Hasaranga to subdue Ireland.

Nissanka struck 61 off 47 balls and Hasaranga top-scored with 71 from 47 while a useful cameo from captain Dasun Shanaka (21 not out from 11) ushered Sri Lanka to a formidable 7-171.

The trio were the only batsmen to reach double figures for Sri Lanka as Josh Little proved the stand-out bowler with 4-23 for Ireland, whose inability to contain Nissanka and Hasaranga in the middle overs was crucial.

“Of course it was a concern at eight for three, but they (Hasaranga/Nissanka) put on an awesome partnership,” Shanaka said.

“Hasaranga at five is a plan coming in at the World Cup and it worked well for us,” he said of the all-rounder, who was named player-of-the-match.

Ireland lost wickets at regular intervals in response and while a 53-run partnership between captain Andy Balbirnie (41) and Curtis Campher (24) gave them brief hope they subsided to 101 all out in 18.3 overs.

Campher had made history with four wickets in as many deliveries in Ireland’s victory over Holland on Monday and he kept Ireland ticking over with the bat alongside Balbirnie after coming out at 3-32 against Sri Lanka.

However, he was bowled by off-spinner Maheesh Theekshana, who took three for 17 from his four overs. Campher’s dismissal marked the start of a collapse in which Ireland lost their last seven wickets for the addition of just 16 runs.

Sri Lanka, winners in 2014, and twice runners-up, must defeat Netherlands on Friday to guarantee top spot, but their net run rate is so superior to the rest of the group even a narrow defeat is likely to be sufficient to finish first.

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