Sri Lanka beat Netherlands in a low-scoring thriller to keep their Cricket World Cup qualification hopes on track, and deal a potentially fatal blow to Dutch hopes of a place at this October’s competition.

Sri Lanka came into the game with a perfect record in the World Cup Qualifiers, but wary that, with West Indies to play in their last game, any slips before then could be damaging. They survived a small scare against Scotland, defending what at first seemed a sub-par 245 with relative ease. But when they stumbled to 67-5 against Netherlands, the situation looked perilous.

The rot had set in right from ball one, when Logan van Beek dismissed Pathum Nissanka, caught at cover. Wickets continued to tumble, and though opener Dimuth Karunaratne battled through, when he found himself outfoxed by a big-turning leg-break, a proper collapse looked on the cards.

However, the grip on offer will also have encouraged Sri Lanka, given how potent their spinners have been in the competition, and if they could fight their way to 200, they would have hope.

It was those spinners, especially Dhananjaya de Silva, who made 91, that they had to thank for doing so. Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana each made 20, and Sri Lanka had scrapped to 213.

When both Netherlands openers fell for ducks, Sri Lanka looked to be doing it easy. But the Associate side refused to lay down. A 77-run stand between Wesley Barresi and Bas de Leede took them back into contention, with the runs coming at a quick enough rate to take the overs left in the game out of the equation.

But Barresi was run out for 52, and then the spinners took charge. Hasaranga bowled Teja Nidamanuru, one of Netherlands’ heroes against West Indies, for a duck, before Theekshana claimed three wickets in two overs to leave the European side in tatters at 133-7.

Their hopes rested on captain Scott Edwards, and he delivered a skipper’s knock. But while he stayed unbeaten on 67, some poor cricket cost Netherlands. They attempted a bye to the keeper, with the run rate still not an issue, and saw Shariz Ahmed run out. Then Ryan Klein took a single off the last ball of the over, exposing himself to Hasaranga, and he was then bowled by a googly.

No.11 Aryan Dutt hung around dutifully for 26 balls as Netherlands sparked hopes of a fightback, but he had no answer to a full, straight Dasun Shanaka delivery, and Sri Lanka wrapped up a 21-run win.

The result solidifies Sri Lanka’s hopes of World Cup qualification, which will be almost certain if they beat Zimbabwe in their next fixture. For Netherlands, this was a second loss of the competition, leaving them without margin for error and dependent on other results to make it to India.