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Dynamic Duo, Theekshana and Nissanka, Secure Sri Lanka's Glorious ODI World Cup Passage

The combination of an exceptional bowling display by Maheesh Theekshana and a magnificent unbeaten century by Pathum Nissanka propelled Sri Lanka to a resounding nine-wicket victory over Zimbabwe, securing their ticket to the highly anticipated ODI World Cup in India later this year. The match showcased Sri Lanka's prowess, as their bowlers orchestrated a batting collapse on either side of a 68-run partnership between Sean Williams and Sikandar Raza, ultimately leading to Zimbabwe's first loss in the 2023 ODI World Cup Qualifier.

The highlight of the day was Sri Lanka's new-ball bowling, which lived up to the billing of a clash between the tournament's best batting and bowling teams. Dilshan Madushanka, playing in only his second game as a replacement for the injured Dushmantha Chameera, wreaked havoc on Zimbabwe's top order. With his skillful variations and movement off the pitch, Madushanka struck early and left Zimbabwe reeling within the first seven overs.
In a remarkable display of talent, Madushanka dismissed Joylord Gumbie with a cleverly placed delivery that was caught at short midwicket. He then surprised Wessly Madhevere with a sharply rising delivery, resulting in a top-edged pull to mid-off. In his fourth over, Madushanka had Craig Ervine caught behind, tempting him with a full ball that straightened after pitching outside off. Zimbabwe found themselves in dire straits at 30 for 3.

Madushanka had an opportunity to claim the wicket of Williams, but Matheesha Pathirana, brought in as a replacement for the injured Lahuru Kumara, dropped a straightforward chance. Meanwhile, Raza found his rhythm with a well-timed square drive, and he and Williams patiently settled into their innings. They took advantage of Pathirana's wayward bowling, with the young bowler conceding seven wides in his first two overs. Raza and Williams used their footwork to unsettle Dhananjaya de Silva and Wanindu Hasaranga, with Williams executing a slog-sweep and a cover drive, while Raza smashed a six over midwicket and charged down the wicket to hit a boundary.

However, Dasun Shanaka ended their partnership when Raza attempted a swiped shot across the line, only for Madushanka to pull off a remarkable diving catch at long leg. Williams, undeterred, went on to score his fifth fifty-plus score in the competition before Maheesh Theekshana took center stage.

Theekshana displayed his skill by breaching Williams' defenses, dismissing him comprehensively. In the next over, Theekshana repeated the feat against Ryan Burl. He continued his impressive performance by claiming the wicket of Luke Jongwe through an lbw dismissal. Finally, Theekshana sealed the fate of Zimbabwe's innings by trapping the last batsman, Blessing Muzarabani. Pathirana also contributed to Sri Lanka's dominant bowling display by cleaning up Brad Evans and Richard Ngarava, maintaining their record of dismissing each opponent in the Qualifier for under 200 runs.

In pursuit of a target of 166, Sri Lanka had an early scare when Dimuth Karunaratne was dropped by Brad Evans at short midwicket off the bowling of Richard Ngarava. From that point on, Karunaratne and Nissanka took control of the chase with a commanding 103-run partnership for the opening wicket. Nissanka, after settling into his innings, unleashed an array of elegant strokes, particularly in an over bowled by Evans, shifting gears and propelling the team forward.

Nissanka's unbeaten knock of 102 runs, which included

 14 boundaries, showcased his exceptional strokeplay and secured his second ODI century. Sri Lanka comfortably reached the target with nearly 17 overs to spare, solidifying their place in the upcoming World Cup in India.

Sri Lanka's final match in the tournament will be against West Indies, while Zimbabwe will face Scotland in their last Super Six game. The winner of the Zimbabwe-Scotland match will secure a spot among the ten teams competing in the World Cup.

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