Courtesy: International Cricket Council
Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara took Sri Lanka to a comfortable win over the West Indies in a match that calmed the somewhat jangled nerves of the 35,000-plus spectators at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium in Kandy. After the tie against New Zealand, which Sri Lanka won in the Super Over, the game against the West Indies was a veritable walk in the park.
Darren Sammy got it right at the toss and chose to bat, perhaps expecting the wicket, on which England had just beaten New Zealand, to be a touch tired. By the end of the game, though, it was the shoulders of West Indies’ players that were drooping.
While Jayawardena helped himself to some invaluable time out in the middle, it was Sri Lanka’s bowlers who set up the win. Ajantha Mendis, who had struggled with a side strain earlier in the tournament, was fit to go and snaffled the first wicket when Johnson Charles charged down the pitch without a good idea of which way the ball would turn.
If Mendis accounted for the form player, it was Nuwan Kulasekara, who often goes uncelebrated, who knocked the big man over. Chris Gayle had an airy waft at a slower leg-cutter and the thick edge was well caught by Sangakkara diving to his left. At 16 for two, West Indies was in trouble, and Marlon Samuels was forced to consolidate in the company of Dwayne Bravo.
Sri Lanka’s bowlers sensed a chance to slip in some quiet overs, and only two overs resulted in 10 runs or more in the first 14. While the pitch did not grip exceptionally, it was on the slow side and this played into the hands of Sri Lanka’s bowlers. Sri Lanka was patient, anticipating the opportunities that would come its way when the batsmen tried to force the pace.
Bravo (40) was the first to perish when he tried to up the tempo against the leg-spin of Jeevan Mendis, comfortably caught on the long-on ropes by Tillakaratne Dilshan. This resulted in the funniest moment of the day, with Jeevan doing a Gangnam-style celebration of his own even as the crowd spotted this on the big screen and went wild. Gayle, watching it all from the dugout, couldn’t suppress a giggle.
Samuels fared a bit better, managing to come down the track and hit Jeevan into the stands behind long-on and following it up by another biggie, a powerful smite off Kulasekara that ended up in the upper tier of the stands.
Kieron Pollard was completely fooled by Mendis and Andre Russell’s stay at the crease was fleeting as West Indies struggled to kick on. Samuels, who had held the innings together well, tried to make a late charge, but Lasith Malinga sent down a fine 19th over, in which he conceded just three singles. In the end, Samuels got to his half-century, but this only pushed the West Indies to 129 for five.
Dilshan got off the blocks as though Sri Lanka was chasing 230 rather than 130 and when he was caught behind off Ravi Rampaul, there was a glimmer of hope for the West Indies. It proved to be a false dawn, however, as Jayawardena (65 not out) and Sangakkara (39 not out) added 108 runs with minimum fuss to take Sri Lanka over the line. Jayawardena was not in the best touch, occasionally miscuing pull shots and spearing the ball off the edge, but it was a testament to his professionalism that he did not give his wicket away at any stage. When Sri Lanka got to their target, it was with nearly five overs to spare.