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Bravo, Bravo!

sportsdwaynebravogotthelasttwowicketBIRMINGHAM – West Indies withstood a late surge from Sri Lanka’s tail-enders to triumph by 17 runs, in their warm-up encounter for the imminent ICC Champions Trophy in Birmingham today.

Fifties by opener Johnson Charles, Darren Bravo and Ramnaresh Sarwan, propelled West Indies to 297 for 6. Sri Lanka were unable to exert sustained control over the run chase as they lost wickets regularly.

A 73-run ninth-wicket stand between all-rounders Dilhara Lokuhettige and Nuwan Kulasekara put Sri Lanka in sight of victory, but Dwayne Bravo mopped up the remaining wickets, and finished with a match-best 3 for 26 from his five overs. Aside from him, the West Indies batsmen will take the most confidence from the match.

The result, as in many other warm-up matches, is largely irrelevant. West Indies would not have had the service of Tino Best with the ball had they fielded eleven batsmen. Sri Lanka meanwhile, could not have used Lokuhettige, or one of either Jeevan Mendis or Lahiru Thirimanne. Moreover, neither team plays a group match in Edgbaston. Though the warm-ups recreate match conditions to some extent, both teams are likely to encounter more lively pitches in London and Cardiff.

Charles dominated the early overs, while Gayle was reticent at the other end. As it became clear his partner was striking it well, as he had against Australia, Gayle was content to give Charles the lion share of the strike. Sri Lanka’s fast bowling was not devoid of discipline in the opening overs, but the pitch – another lifeless batting paradise – did not offer them much room for error. Charles cut with particular ferocity, often when the ball was not more than a foot outside off stump, and he drove balls equally undeserving of punishment, almost as well. With no lateral movement on offer, in the air or off the pitch, Kulasekara’s gentle pace became fodder for Charles, who took ten runs off his first over, and rarely let up after.

Gayle boundary-less

Gayle eventually departed for 22, having hit no boundaries, and Charles followed eight balls later, having made his second successive fifty of the warm-ups.

Darren Bravo achieved the same feat during the middle overs, though his strike-rate was 74 in comparison to Charles’ 116. Tillakaratne Dilshan bowled the tightest overs of West Indies innings, and having seen Marlon Samuels perish on the fence to Dilshan’s second ball, Bravo and Sarwan played him with utmost prudence. Dilshan’s economy rate of 2.71 was substantially superior to what the front line operators achieved in either warm-up match.

As West Indies approached 250 with only three wickets lost, captain Dwayne Bravo retired both batsmen out after the 44th over, leaving their 126-run stand unbroken. Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard then began hitting out, but only Pollard succeeded in that regard. His 21-ball 29 featured two sixes off near-yorkers, in Lasith Malinga’s final over, which went for 16.

With a large total to chase, Sri Lanka’s explosive openers might have set them on course, but their assault was too short-lived to fire their side to a substantial advantage, and the remaining batsmen were left with plenty to do. Kusal Perera’s defensive technique has not faltered so far in international cricket, but as he has tended to do in the past, he threw away a promising start by playing one shot too many – this time into the hands of the fielder at deep square leg.

Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lanka’s most secure batsman on fast, bouncy pitches, will take the most from this match. His 62-ball 56 is exactly the sort of innings that is required of him in the middle order if Sri Lanka are to go far in this tournament, and having also made a decent score at a fair clip in the first warm-up match, he has seemingly left his IPL woes in India.

His 62-run partnership with Mahela Jayawardene promised greater things, as the pair struck several serene boundaries between them. But when Jayawardene was run out for 29, the middle order mustered little resistance. As in recent major tournaments, it is the ability of Nos. 5, 6 and 7 to overcome early losses that is the area of largest concern for Sri Lanka going forward into the tournament.

West Indies would also have been pleased with the bowling of off-spinner Sunil Narine who finished with 2 for 26 in his 10 overs. (cricinfo)

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