Automatic World Cup qualification leaves SL skipper relieved

MANCHESTER: Sri Lanka captain Upul Tharanga backed his side to uphold the island’s proud World Cup record after their automatic qualification for the 2019 edition in Britain was assured by West Indies’ seven-wicket loss to England in Manchester on Tuesday.

With Sept 30 set as the cut-off date for automatic qualification for the Inter­national Cricket Council’s showpiece 50-over tournament, two-time champions West Indies (78 points) now cannot move ahead of Sri Lanka (86 points) in the ODI team rankings regardless of other results in the remainder of their five-match series in England.

As a result 1996 World Cup winners Sri Lanka — also the losing finalists in 2007 and 2011 — have become the eighth and last team to qualify directly, joining Aus­tralia, Bangladesh, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa.

The confirmation that Sri Lanka had gained direct entry to the next World Cup came after their recent hammering at home to India in all three formats, the visitors winning Test and ODI series 3-0 and 5-0 respectively before triumphing by seven wickets in a lone T20 International earlier this month.

“It’s no secret that we have been going through a tough time,” said relieved Sri Lanka ODI skipper Tharanga in an ICC statement released shortly after England’s win in Manchester.

“But I want to say a big, big thank you to our fans who’ve kept faith with us when things looked bleak.”

He added: “ICC events have always brought out the magic in Sri Lanka cricket, and I look forward to proving that once again.

“We have a clear plan toward the World Cup, and we will work hard at achieving each step.

“I know you will see Sri Lanka’s special brand of cricket out there once again soon.”

Having failed to qualify for the elite Champions Trophy tournament in Britain earlier this year, West Indies suffered a 13th defeat in their last 14 completed ODIs against England in the series opener at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

“We knew it was always going to be a tough ask,” said West Indies batting coach Toby Radford after a convincing loss.

“But we are very positive as a group and we are trying to develop in all our formats of cricket, so every game that comes now we will be positive and if that means qualifiers next year, it’s qualifiers next year and we’ll build our way back up.”

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