Abu Dhabi, Oct 18: Former champions Sri Lanka overcame initial hiccups to subdue an inexperienced yet spirited Namibia by seven wickets, beginning their quest to make the Super 12 stage of the T20 World Cup in right earnest, here on Monday.
The Sri Lankan bowlers dominated the inexperienced Namibian line-up to bundle them out for a paltry 96 after inviting them to bat and then overhauled the target with 6.3 overs to spare in a Group A match of the first round.
The Namibian players, despite defeat, gave a good account of themselves as they refused to be intimidated by an experienced team which was once a force in world cricket.
The Namibian created a few ripples when they got rid of Pathum Nissanka (5), Kusal Perra (11) and explosive Dinesh Chandimal (5) inside Powerplay overs.
However, Avishka Fernando (30) and talented Bhanuka Rajapakse (42) steered the 2014 champions through with their confident knocks. While Fernando relied more on placement and timing, Rajapaksa was all brawn, striking with great power as the duo put paid to any hopes the Namibian would have entertained after the early strikes.
Rajapaksa fittingly finished the match with a six off pacer Jan Frylinck as Sri Lanka joined Ireland on two points after the first day of matches in Group A.
Sri Lanka skipper Dasun Shanka said they are focussed on winning all three games in the qualifiers to be prepared for the tournament-proper in the best possible manner.
"Winning all three games will definitely put us in a good state of mind, adjusting to conditions will help in the main tournament," he said during the post-match presentation ceremony.
"We were planning quite a lot. We want to get through this qualifying stage. All went well for us. Theekshana has been outstanding. He has been training with Ajantha Mendis back home and has a lot more to offer in the future.
"Our fast bowlers earlier had the pace but not the execution but going forward you can see a lot of good things."
Namibia skipper Gerhard Erasmus said they had taken a few positives out of the match. "It's a pinnacle for many of the players and for the organisation as well. We can inspire a lot of kids by playing at the world stage," said Erasmus.
"We have to regroup as two very important games are coming up. Sri Lanka have a quality bowling attack. With 96 on the board, you have to say batsmen need to come to the party and I back our bowlers to defend."
For Namibia, spinner Bernard Scholtz (1/16) who bowled in a tight line, Ruben Trumpelmann (1/27) and JJ Smit (1/7) picked up the wickets. The Lankan openers could not get going with the aggressive Perera's attempt to clear the in-field did not come through as Smit took a good catch to give Trumpelmann the wicket.
Nissanka fell LBW to left-arm spinner Scholtz and Dinesh Chandimal's scratchy innings was ended by Smit, who got him to edge one to the keeper.
Earlier, spinners Mahesh Theekshana (3/25) and Wanindu Hasaranga (2/24), one of world's top spinners,proved too hot for the Namibian batters, who struggled to find a way past the Lankan attack.
The pacers also did a good job by keeping the opposition batters on a tight leash, right from the word go. Only three Namibian batters reached double-digit figures after they were sent into bat. They could not score as quickly as they would have liked in the face of some tight bowling from the Lankan pacers.
The openers Stephen Baard (7) and Zane Green (8) fell within the Powerplay, in which only 30 runs were scored with Theekshana dismissing both of them. Craig Williams (29 off 36 balls) and skipper Gerhard Erasmus (20 off 19 balls) steadied the ship with a 39-run partnership for the third wicket.
However, the fall of Erasmus to pacer Lahiru Kumara sparked a collapse as Namibia slipped to 84 for 6 in the 16th over. Experienced all-rounder David Wiese, of whom a lot was expected, lasted only seven balls before being sent back by paceman Chamika Karunaratne (1/17).
The Sri Lanka players wore black arm bands during the match as a tribute to former skipper Bandula Warnapura, who passed away earlier in the day.