At the ripe age of 37, Niluka Karunaratne has led Sri Lanka into another Commonwealth Games Mixed Team quarterfinals in Birmingham.
Appearing at his sixth consecutive Games, the former world No.34 played three matches in one day to help his nation finish second behind defending champions India in Group B and return to the knockout stage after Glasgow 2014, where Sri Lanka lost to England in the last eight.
Sri Lanka, who had surprised Australia 3-2 on the opening day, fell 5-0 to India in yesterday’s morning session, with Karunaratne losing his men’s singles match to Lakshya Sen 21-18 21-5.
But the veteran returned in the evening session to deliver the winning point in men’s doubles with Sachin Dias against Murad Ali and Muhammad Irfan Saeed Bhatti of Pakistan.
Sri Lanka were leading 2-0 when Tokyo 2020 Olympian Mahoor Shahzad’s 22-20 21-15 victory over Suhasni Vidanage gave Pakistan comeback hope. Dias and Thilini Hendahewa had put them ahead with a 21-9 21-11 win over Bhatti and Ghazala Saddique before Karunaratne defeated Ali by the same scores. Hendahewa and Vidanage then won their women’s doubles match for a 4-1 final result.
Sri Lanka will now play Malaysia, who thumped South Africa 5-0 to top Group D.
Karunaratne, whose debut came 20 years ago at Manchester 2002, said: “Quarterfinals is quite an achievement for Sri Lanka. My first Commonwealth Games were in the UK and now my last, also in the UK. This is not my last multi-sport event though!”
Host nation England meanwhile, settled for second place in Group B after losing 4-1 to Singapore.
Group A: Australia bt Pakistan 3-2, India bt Australia 4-1
Group B: Mauritius bt Barbados 4-1
Group C: Canada bt Maldives 5-0, Scotland bt Uganda 4-1, Canada bt Scotland 3-2, Uganda bt Maldives 4-1
Group D: Jamaica bt Zambia 4-1
Malaysia vs Sri Lanka
Canada vs England
Scotland vs Singapore
South Africa vs India