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West Indies Tri-Nation Series – SL vs WI: Sangakkara, Bowlers Beat Profligate WI

By on July 9, 2013

West Indies Tri-Nation Series - SL vs WI: SangakkaraSri Lanka 219 for 8 (Sangakkara 90*, Roach 4-27) beat West Indies 190 for 9 (Darren Bravo 70, Simmons 67, Mathews 4-29) by 39 runs (D/L method)…

Sri Lanka’s batsmen, led by Kumar Sangakkara, battled rain interruptions that stretched their innings of 41 overs over two days. Their bowlers seemed to have the match under control when they ran in to a red-hot Lendl Simmons and Darren Bravo. That was when rain decided to even things out. A drizzle started, West Indies panicked, went for the D/L par score and lost Simmons. The drizzle stopped, the clouds disappeared and all life drained out of the West Indies chase as Sri Lanka slowed the game down.

The chase had seemed to have already lost steam at 31 for 4 when West Indies’ batsmen carried on from where their bowlers had left, showing the same lack of discipline. Simmons , playing his first ODI since December, then took 16 deliveries to get off the mark, struggling against the offspin of Sachithra Senanayake. Even as the asking-rate galloped, though, the momentum suddenly shifted. Out of nowhere, Simmons began to smoke sixes and fours on the up. With Bravo starting to attack as well, West Indies were scoring at ten an over now.

They were still slightly behind on the par score, though, and the drizzle and the dark skies made Simmons go after every ball. You could not blame Simmons for worrying about rain in an ODI that had stretched to two days because of it. With three balls left in the 32nd over and West Indies 14 runs behind, Simmons hit successive fours before an attempt to clear the field ended in deep point’s hands.

Kieron Pollard walked into rain for the second time in less than a month. This time, he lasted just four balls, edging Lasith Malinga behind to register his third duck of the series in four innings. Darren Sammy was the final hope for West Indies but it was not easy to come in and start hitting on this pitch, even though it had eased out from the at times unplayable brute it was on day one. Sammy and Bravo holed out in successive overs but the last-wicket pair of Kemar Roach and Tino Best – which had taken West Indies to a tense victory over India in Jamaica – held their nerve again to deny Sri Lanka the bonus point that would have carried the visitors into the final.

If only the West Indies top order had shown similar application. Instead, Chris Gayle, Johnson Charles and Marlon Samuels went after shortish deliveries early in their innings and paid the price. Sri Lanka’s bowlers got more out of the pitch than the home attack, some extra swing, seam and bounce making strokeplay difficult with the new balls.

Patience was not something the West Indies top order was willing to show, despite knowing that Sri Lanka had been rendered a bowler short early in the chase. Nuwan Kulasekara’s spell lasted 11 deliveries when a Gayle push hit a finger on his left hand. A bleeding Kulasekara left the field. Two overs later, Gayle followed him. In the next over, Charles and Samuels followed.

Patience was something Kumar Sangakkara had in plenty on day one, and on the reserve day, he capitalised on some wayward bowling to carry Sri Lanka to a challenging total. The pitch, bouncy and uneven on day one, eased out despite overnight and morning rain. Sangakkara prospered as Sri Lanka took 105 off the last ten overs. Sangakkara’s innings showed the way to deal with changing conditions. West Indies’ bowling, barring Sammy and Roach, was exactly the opposite.

Having seen that the surface lacked the bite it had a day ago, they bowled short and wide to be taken apart at the death. Sangakkara was in a positive mood right from the start. He hadn’t hit a boundary in 33 deliveries on day one; the morning after, he was moving across in his crease, he was walking down the pitch, disturbing lengths and dispatching width.

Angelo Mathews’ quick 30 gave the innings more momentum. Roach appeared to have brought West Indies back when he dismissed Mathews and Jeevan Mendis in the 35th over, but Sangakkara hit harder now, and West Indies wilted. Jason Holder, who had looked so threatening with his bounce a day ago, lost his line. The wayward Best, who had found little semblance of line, length or rhythm on both days, served up short ball after short ball, and was punished. West Indies’ wide count was as much as 24 in 41 overs, Tino Best responsible for more than half of those runs.

It didn’t help that they had a part-time wicketkeeper, Charles, in the firing line of Best’s misdirected missiles. Thrice, Charles let a wide delivery fly to the boundary when a better keeper might have stopped it. The extra batsman in Simmons gave West Indies a chance, but would he have needed to take so much risk in the absence of all those extras?

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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