‘Sri Lanka played with 12 players’: Malinga can’t keep quiet at Wellalage’s show | Cricket

Defending champions Sri Lanka endured a tough 41-run defeat against India in the Asia Cup, Super 4 encounter in Colombo on Tuesday. Despite the outcome, there were a few positives that the Lankan unit would relish, especially with the ODI World Cup approaching. 20-year-old Dunith Wellalage in particular was very impressive, who first dictated the show with the ball, before troubling Rohit Sharma and Co. with the bat.

Dunith Wellalage appeals for LBW during the Asia Cup 2023 Super Four match between India and Sri Lanka(AFP)
Dunith Wellalage appeals for LBW during the Asia Cup 2023 Super Four match between India and Sri Lanka(AFP)

Wellalage, who bowls left-arm spin, troubled the star-studded Indian batting line-up and went to complete his maiden five-wicket haul in ODIs. Wellalage efforts saw Sri Lanka fold India for 213 in 49.1 overs during which he accounted for the wickets of Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, and Hardik Pandya, conceding just 40 runs from 10 overs.

With the bat too, Wellalage put quite a show as he remained unbeaten on 42 off 46 balls, while Sri Lanka kept losing wickets from the other end. In fact he stitched a crucial 63-run stand with Dhananjaya de Silva, bringing Sri Lanka close to the target. Ravindra Jadeja eventually broke the stand as Dhananjaya was caught by Shubman for 41(66). Following his dismissal, the Lankan tail failed to withstand the Indian attack and were all-out for 172. Wellalage’s all-round show impressed several legends, including Sri Lanka’s Lasith Malinga, who was mighty impressed with Wellalage and predicted the young spinner to have a bright future.

“It’s fair to say that SL played with 12 players today. That’s how good Dunith was,” Malinga wrote. “He’s got a brilliant head on his young shoulders to go with his all-round skill set. I believe he’s on his way to becoming the most important player for SL in ODIs for the next decade.”

Wellalage is relatively new in Sri Lanka’s international setup and has made just 13 ODI appearances so far. However, his commanding show against India paints a picture of him playing a major role for Sri Lanka in the upcoming World Cup, which will be played in India – conditions which generally benefits the tweakers.

Wellalage had finished as the leading wicket-taker at last year’s ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup, with 17 scalps at an average of 13.58.

Malinga wasn’t the only big name, who was impressed with the 20-year-old. The likes of R Ashwin, Irfan Pathan, Waqar Younis too took to social media to appreciate the impeccable show by Wellalage.

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