Kumar Sangakkara, the man of the match, showed for all to see how to bat on a demanding pitch by scoring an unbeaten 90 to help Sri Lanka secure an excellent win in its triangular series league tie against West Indies at Port of Spain on Monday (July 8).
Sangakkara’s brilliance helped Sri Lanka, overnight 60 for three in 19 overs when play was halted due to rain, post 219 for eight in an innings interrupted twice more by the elements and eventually reduced to 41 overs a side. West Indies’ revised target was 230 from 41 overs, but it settled for 190 for nine, handing Sri Lanka victory by 39 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis method and thrusting it to the top of the points table.
Lendl Simmons and Darren Bravo set up a spirited chase after a stunning top-order collapse, but once Simmons was dismissed in trying to catch up with the required rate, the bottom fell out of the West Indies batting. Sri Lanka’s victory helped it reach nine points, the same as West Indies which have finished its league engagements, and set up an all-important clash against India on Tuesday to decide the finalists. Sri Lanka has a much superior net run rate, and India must win well to knock West Indies out and make it to the title round.
Chris Gayle and Johnson Charles began the chase of 231 with one thing on their minds — knock off early runs in case of rain. Both batsmen chanced their arms to combat the swing and seam on offer. Nuwan Kulasekara, who repeatedly beat the batsman, grassed a hard return chance from Gayle, in the process splitting the webbing in his left hand and being ruled out of the rest of the tournament. Angelo Mathews, replacing Kulasekara, struck immediately by removing Gayle, caught square on the offside.
A superb reflex catch by Shaminda Eranga off his own bowling got rid of Charles, the form batsman for the West Indies, who looked in trouble at 29 for two. Marlon Samuels edged Eranga in the same over and was caught smartly at first slip by Mahela Jayawardene and Devon Smith, coming in for Dwayne Bravo, was trapped in front by Mathews as West Indies plunged into a hole at 31 for four.
West Indies limped to 60 for four at the end of 20 overs, 54 short of the Duckworth-Lewis par score. Bravo and Simmons went in to a shell trying to limit the damage, scoring just 45 in a 15-over stretch with only one boundary. Both batsmen opened up slightly thereafter, taking some risks, as the score went past 100 in the 27th over.
The crowd came to life as Simmons welcomed Eranga back in to the attack with a huge six that landed on the media box. Having amassed 40 runs in five overs, West Indies looked set not only to deny Sri Lanka the bonus point but also make a strong fist of the chase. Simmons reached his 50 (69 balls, 2×4, 4×6) with another huge six over long-off which also brought up the 100-run partnership, and the target was down to 97 off 11 overs. Bravo followed suit with an immaculate cover drive to reach his half-century off 63 balls (3×4, 1×6)
The 150 came up in the 32nd over with rains threatening and West Indies eight runs behind the D/L par score. Simmons drove Eranga out to sweeper cover, in the drizzle, as West Indies was knocked back a little. Kieron Pollard, the stand-in skipper, collected his third duck of the series, edging a perfectly seaming, back-of-length delivery from Lasith Malinga behind as the target seemed to get away from West Indies (154 for six) with Malinga delivering a wicket maiden in the 33rd over.
Malinga later removed the dangerous Darren Sammy as well, inducing a skier and taking it himself. Mindless batting towards the end put West Indies in danger of not achieving the total (184) to deny Sri Lanka the bonus point, as Bravo and Jason Holder fell in the same Mathews over. The last-wicket duo of Kemar Roach and Tino Best got the home side over that hurdle.
Earlier, the stop-start One-Day International, played over two days due to rain interruptions, needed the class of Sangakkara to tame the conditions. Sangakkara stroked his way to an unbeaten 90 in 95 balls as Sri Lanka amassed 156 for 5 in 22 overs on the reserve day to set West Indies a stiff target at the Queen’s Park Oval.
Play resumed almost two hours behind schedule on the reserve day, with a fresh spell of rain initially reducing the match to a 45 overs a side. Samuels provided the first breakthrough of the day when Lahiru Thirimanne inside-edged a quick one on to his stumps, ending a partnership of 64 with Sangakkara. Another rain interruption of 35 minutes followed with Sri Lanka on 122 for four, and the overs were further reduced to 41 a side.
On resumption, Mathews made his intentions clear, hitting Holder down the ground and lofting Samuels over midwicket for a six. The Power Play overs were reduced to two due to the interruptions and Mathews opted to take it in the 35th over, but went first ball to Roach as he tried to go inside out and succeeded only in finding the backward point fielder.
Sangakkara brought up his 50 off 76 balls with a calm single, batting serenely in tough conditions and overcoming multiple rain interruptions. Best, erratic, was brought back into the attack and it was the invitation Sangakkara needed to attack as he took him for a six and a four, Sri Lanka moving to 175 for six in 37 overs.
West Indies then came apart as Kulasekara and Sangakkara launched into the bowlers, their 50-run partnership coming in just 3.5 overs. There was some respite for the bowlers as Kulasekara skied a Holder delivery to long-on.
Sangakkara kept pushing the score as West Indies was sloppy with its bowling (31 extras), and finished ten short of what would have been his 16th ODI hundred. Roach was among the wickets and returned excellent figures of four for 27, while Darren Sammy was his usual miserly self, but the rest of the West Indies bowling was taken apart by Sri Lanka.
(Courtesy: International Cricket Council)