A magnificent opening spell from Oshane Thomas inspired West Indies to a 25-run win over Sri Lanka at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium on Wednesday.
During the Powerplay, Thomas struggled with his line, bowling as many as seven wides across his three overs. But when he got it right, the Sri Lankan batsmen struggled. He first took three wickets off four deliveries in his first over - dismissing Avishka Fernando (7), Kusal Mendis (0) and Shehan Jayasuriya (0).
Just as Angelo Mathews looked to get going, the former Sri Lankan captain had to head back to the pavilion for 10 thanks to a brilliant catch in the outfield from Andre Russell. It was Thomas with the wicket once again and the pacer struck again when he bowled Dasun Shanaka (2) off the final delivery of the Powerplay.
Interestingly, before this match, Oshane Thomas had bowled 24 overs during the first six overs of an innings in T20Is and had taken just five wickets during this phase. In this game, he managed to double that tally!
With Sri Lanka having lost five wickets in the Powerplay, many would have thought 'game over' at the time. It was far from being the case though as Kusal Perera and Wanindu Hasaranga brought Sri Lanka back into the game with a brilliant partnership of 87.
After Perera notched up his 12th T20I half-century and the hosts needing 56 runs to win from the final five overs, the match seemed to be in the balance.
That was when Rovman Powell, who was in the middle of an impressive spell, got the breakthrough for the Windies. Hasaranga, who was batting on 44, was struck right in front of the stumps off a full toss. While the on-field umpire gave the decision in favour of the batsman, once West Indies took the review, there was little doubt that Hasaranga was out.
Russell dismissed Perera with a superb yorker in the following over and after that it was all one-way traffic. Sri Lanka were eventually bowled out for 171.
Earlier, a half-century from Lendl Simmons and quickfire knocks from Russell and Kieron Pollard guided the defending T20 World Cup champions to 196/4 in their 20 overs.
At the start, with Simmons keen to get off the mark quickly, Sri Lanka were presented with a chance off just the second delivery of the match. Lasith Malinga began the match with a couple of attempted yorkers and Simmons took a risky single. Luckily for the West Indian opener, the throw didn’t hit the stumps and he survived.
Both Simmons and Brandon King started steadily before the former decided to take on Isuru Udana and scored 20 runs in the final over of the Powerplay.
Lakshan Sandakan provided a much-needed breakthrough for Sri Lanka in the ninth over. The left-arm wrist-spinner dismissed King for a well-made 33 after the opening partnership had put on 74 - the highest first wicket partnership for West Indies against Sri Lanka in T20Is.
Simmons soon notched up his eighth T20I half-century, this one off just 31 deliveries. His partner at the other end, Nicholas Pooran (14), got a start but couldn't capitalise.
Russell was promoted to number four and it turned out to be an inspired decision. The West Indian all rounder took just four deliveries to make his intentions known as he hit Sandakan for a six which was followed by a four. He quickly moved to 35, hitting two fours and three sixes along the way, before getting bowled by a trademark Malinga yorker.
There was little respite for Sri Lanka with West Indies skipper Pollard walking in to bat next and scoring 34 from just 15 deliveries.
Simmons was unbeaten on 67 at the end of the innings.
The second and final T20I of the series will be played at the same ground on Friday.