In an inconsequential World Cup match, it was Avishka Fernando’s maiden century that overshadowed Nicholas Pooran’s first ODI ton. However, it gave both the teams a glimpse of their future, which seems bright.
In the first Powerplay, it was the battle between the team that had the highest run-rate (6.02) against the team that had one of the worst economy rates (5.95) in the 2019 World Cup. Ahead of this match, Sri Lanka practiced against the short balls in the nets as they lost a lot of wickets, especially in the match against South Africa to such deliveries. However, West Indies did not use the short ball ploy early on and instead bowled full on the stumps, which made it easier for the batsmen to clip them off the pads. With little to no swing on offer, playing the flick to the balls on middle and leg practically was risk free.
For a team who get dismissed by short deliveries every once every 16.2 deliveries, Sri Lanka received just 12 short deliveries and in the first Powerplay, which is the main reason why openers Kusal Perera and Dimuth Karunaratne played out the first 10 overs without any trouble. The openers also negotiated the seven bouncers thrown at them in the phase successfully. Windies perhaps missed a trick or two in the first phase as Sri Lanka reached 49 for no loss without any trouble.
Just as easily, Perera got to his fifty off just 38 deliveries. However, he got a life after he was dropped at deep square leg on 59 by Nicholas Pooran. However, he could not capitalize as he was run-out, adding five more runs to his tally. Avishka Fernando was looking in fine touch once again and he was joined by Kusal Mendis, who lacked runs coming into this game. They stitched together a 85-run stand for the third wicket better than run-a-ball, before Fabian Allen took a brilliant catch off his own bowling to get rid of Mendis for a 39-ball 41.
Fernando did not throw his wicket away this time and went on to score his first fifty of the tournament. He was well set and Sri Lanka would have wanted to go on and get a big score. He had the experienced Angelo Mathews at the other end, who also scored at a brisk pace and did not let the momentum in the innings dip. Mathews was dismissed by a brilliant Jason Holder Yorker for 26 off 20, but had given Sri Lanka a brilliant platform to get a score in excess of 320 in the final 10 overs.
West Indies had an economy rate of 8.95 in the death overs going into this game – lowest this World Cup – and with a set Fernando, it seemed like they will have to do a lot of leather hunting at the death. However, what would have given them hope was the fact that Sri Lanka had a batting run-rate of just 4.12 in the final 10 overs, which is the lowest among all teams in the tournament.
Sri Lanka certainly improved on the run-rate, but the highlight of the final 10 overs was Fernando’s maiden century. He played sensibly and unlike his previous knocks, managed to convert this into a big one. He eventually holed out for 104 and put on a quick 67-run stand with Lahiru Thirimanne for the fifth wicket, which took Sri Lanka on the brink of 330. They eventually finished with 338 for 6.
West Indies in reply lost a couple of early wickets – Sunil Ambris (5) and Shai Hope (5) – which prompted a sedate start from Chris Gayle in the first Powerplay. Lasith Malinga had his tail up having picked up two quick wickets and was a tad unlucky not to add to his tally.
However, Gayle, who was on the brink of becoming the leading run-getter for West Indies in ODIs was caught for 35 off 48 after he had hit Kasun Rajitha for a six the previous ball. In a bid to repeat it, he top-edged one to short third man. Shimron Hetmyer followed him back into the pavilion after he was run-out, following a mix-up with Pooran. Within 20 overs, Windies had lost four wickets and were staring at an uphill task of going at a required run-rate of over eight an over.
Jason Holder (26) and Pooran put on 61 for the fifth wicket, but West Indies were still behind the 8-ball. Pooran was looking in fine nick and looked on course to get his maiden ODI century. He was so dominant that Carlos Brathwaite scored just eight from the 55-run sixth wicket stand.
Windies found an unlikely hero in Allen, who played some excellent strokes on his way to a 30-ball fifty. After putting on 83 off 57, Allen was dismissed on the non-striker’s end, which was the third run-out of the innings. Meanwhile, Pooran, who was on 99 when that run-out happened went on to reach the three-figure mark off 92 deliveries.
Windies were on course until Karunaratne pulled a rabbit out of the hat by introducing Angelo Mathews in the 48th over – his first over since December 2017 – and struck off the very first delivery, removing the centurion Pooran for 118 off 103. After that, it was just a matter of time before Sri Lanka wrapped things up. It was another case of so close yet so far for the West Indies.