ICC CRICKET WORLD CUP 2019
Avishka Fernando scored his maiden ODI ton to script a good win for SL © Getty
At the end of the 46th over, West Indies needed 30 runs to win with Nicholas Pooran batting on 118. Even as the other three batsmen had batting credibility ranging from limited to none, Sri Lanka were running short on resources. There was one over left for Lasith Malinga to bowl, but all the other pacers were bowled out. Jeffrey Vandersay had a few overs up his sleeve, but his leg-breaks against Pooran was always going to be a risk too much for Sri Lanka. With limited options left, the ball was handed over to Angelo Mathews to deliver the 47th, the veteran who last bowled in December 2017. In Ian Bishop’s words, “To say he is rusty, is going to be an understatement”. But he started his run-up, hobbling more than charging in — somewhere in between – and with the wind taking the ball away from the batsmen, he angled the ball away from Pooran. Lit up by the freebie on offer, he went for a hard slash only to get a faint nick to the ‘keeper. Sri Lanka went up in appeal, West Indies went down in the chase.
With only Sheldon Cottrell, Oshane Thomas and Shannon Gabriel left, it was a task beyond reach. They eventually finished on 315 for 9, losing the inconsequential encounter by 23 runs.
While Sri Lanka did win the contest by posting their highest total of the tournament – 338 for 6, it was also possibly West Indies’ most sensible batting performance, even if in defeat. On paper, and as evidenced in their warm-up clash against New Zealand, it was a team that was quite capable of posting 400. However, a one-dimensional attack to their batting proved to be their undoing several times. On Monday (July 1), however, led by Pooran’s century, West Indies made a strong fight to chase down the massive target, and till three overs before the chase eventually ended, they had an edge over their opponents.
Having lost Sunil Ambris and Shai Hope early, Chris Gayle and Shimron Hetmyer revived their innings with a 49-run alliance. It wasn’t the usual bang-bang approach with which they went on. However, both of them fell in quick succession and West Indies were left reeling at 84 for 4 in the 18th over.
Pooran, however, resurrected the innings with three successive half-century stands in company of Jason Holder, Carlos Brathwaite and Fabien Allen. While he played the primary role in the first two, Allen took over the mantle of the aggressor in the third. Pooran, too, had started off slowly and timed his acceleration well as the innings progressed. It was the Allen-Pooran stand that shifted the momentum in favour of West Indies. To end that partnership and enter the tail early, Karunaratne even used up all his best resources and was left founding when the last three overs started.
However, the duo added 83 runs in only 58 balls, with Allen stroking a quickfire half-century. It was his dismissal, which gave West Indies the first of their two jolts in the death overs. Having played a delivery off his pads to the fielder at short fine leg, he wasn’t interested in Pooran’s call for a quick single. Pooran, batting on 99, was too late to realise his partner’s disinterest and continued his run towards the striker’s end and forced Allen to go for the risk. In doing so, Allen found himself short and left the ground fuming.
Pooran farmed the strike well and took the necessary risks for the next three overs before falling to Mathews.
Earlier in the day, Avishka Fernando’s maiden ton powered Sri Lanka to 338 for 6 after they were put in to bat. On a surface where the ball came along well, West Indies’ five-pronged pace attack didn’t provide enough of a threat. If anything, they splurged on the extra runs, conceding 5 no-balls and 5 wides.
The foundation of the innings was laid by the opening duo, who stitched a 93-run partnership, with Kusal Perera stroking a quickfire half-century. Lahiru Thirimanne, who returned to the side, came out to bat at No 6 and provided a late flourish with an unbeaten 33-ball 45.
Brief Scores:Sri Lanka 338/6 in 50 overs (Avishka Fernando 104, Kusal Perera 64; Jason Holder 2-59, Oshane Thomas 1-58) beat West Indies 315/9 in 50 overs (Nicholas Pooran 118, Fabien Allen 51; Lasith Malinga 3-55, Angelo Mathews 1-6) by 23 runs