Sri Lanka played textbook subcontinental cricket to cut short West Indies’ run in the ICC World Twenty20 2014. Lasith Malinga’s team chose to bat, started brightly, consolidated in the middle overs, ended with a flourish, got early breakthroughs with pace and choked the chase with spin. It’s a fantastic plan for winning T20 matches, but you need to have the personnel to implement and the courage to stick to your guns. Sri Lanka had both in spades, and took the game by 27 runs, keeping West Indies down to 80 for 4 from 13.5 overs in pursuit of 161 on Thursday (April 3) night.
When the chase began, both teams had an eye on the skies as the wind picked up, threatening to bring with it the rain that the meteorological department had forecast. Dwayne Smith took Nuwan Kulasekara for a four and a six, off the first two balls, making his intentions plain.
Sri Lanka recalibrated, bowling Sachithra Senanayake and Malinga in tandem in a clear bid to tie the batsmen down and get ahead in the Duckworth-Lewis stakes, should the rain come down. Just eight runs came from three overs, and a testy Chris Gayle was put out of his misery when a Malinga slower ball cannoned into the stumps off the inside edge. Gayle had used 13 balls to get to three, and Smith followed four balls later. A perfectly pitched slower ball flummoxed Smith and clipped the off-stump as West Indies were reduced to 28 for 2 after five overs.
Marlon Samuels bedded down and allowed hope to float, in the company of Dwayne Bravo, who played one trademark back-foot shot over cover for six. The two had put on 43 when Bravo picked out deep mid-wicket, where Mahela Jayawardena took an excellent tumbling catch.
When they did arrive, the rains did so with suddenness and unfettered fury. With 13.5 overs gone, West Indies was 80 for 4, 27 behind the D-L par score. As the players wondered if a resumption was possible, rain gave way to hail, some stones as big as golf balls settling in a pretty but destructive layer on the outfield. The calculators came out, and Sri Lanka won by 27 runs by the D-L method.
Sri Lanka was forced to adopt a chasing strategy in its Super 10 matches at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong, but, in more familiar conditions at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium, it reverted to type, choosing to bat first.
Kusal Perera and Tillakaratne Dilshan began as though they had set a mental target of 200, attacking Samuel Badree like no one else has in the tournament. Dilshan skipped down the pitch urgently to crash the ball over long-off and Perera followed suit, skipping down the track to muscle the ball for maximum.
Krishmar Santokie, another miser, also found the going tricky against batsmen who were more than willing to chance their arm, and even with a fielder on the ropes at mid-wicket, Perera launched the ball into the advertising hoardings.
Perera had raced to 26 off only 11 balls when he got greedy and dragged Santokie back onto his stumps. Jayawardena was out in the middle and back in the dugout before he got a chance to soak in the atmosphere. Called for a tight single, he hesitated fractionally, but that was enough for Denesh Ramdin to whip off the bails after a rocket throw from Darren Sammy.
Jayawardena was far from pleased, gesticulating to his partner and giving his bat a little toss as he walked off the field, but Kumar Sangakkara had only himself to blame, minutes later. Playing tentatively at a Badree delivery that stopped on him a touch, Sangakkara popped the easiest of return catches to the bowler.
A promising start in a pressure game turned into a proper stutter with the two most accomplished batsmen gone. Dilshan was forced to rebuild in the company of Lahiru Thirimanne, whose tenure was extended after Dinesh Chandimal, the designated captain, sat out the game. If there was added pressure on Thirimanne to deliver, it did not show, and though the run rate was not the greatest, 42 vital runs were added for the fourth wicket.
Dilshan, who had got himself into a bit of a scoring rut, was involved in his second run-out of the day, and on this occasion he was the victim. Punching the ball to midoff, Dilshan set off, only to be turned back, and was caught short, his 39 runs coming off as many balls.
Thirimanne, who had taken 13 balls to get his eye in, was offered a long hop on the 14th, and smacked it to the mid-wicket fence. Confidence boosted, and with runs under the belt, he swept Samuels over mid-wicket, and collected a second six towards the death, coming down the track and scything Andre Russell over point.
In serious danger of not giving itself enough to bowl at, Angelo Mathews changed the course of the game. Striking beautifully over the on-side when the field allowed it, and adjusting well enough to clear cover at other times, Mathews tonked 40 off only 23 balls to lift Sri Lanka to 160. On the day, it proved more than enough.