PORT OF SPAIN — Kumar Sangakkara played a stellar knock today and contributed greatly to Sri Lanka’s victory over the West Indies in a rain curtailed match that lasted over two days.
Sangakkara smashed 90 off 95 balls, virtually single-handedly taking Sri Lanka to 219 for eight after they resumed from an overnight 60 for three in the fifth match of the tri-series that also includes India. Rain continued to lash the Queen’s Park Oval today, reducing the contest to 41 overs a side.
The West Indies were set a revised target of 230 runs under the Duckworth/Lewis system and they ended up with 190 for nine. A spirited 123-run partnership between homeboys Lendl Simmons (67) and Darren Bravo (70) went in vain.
The West Indies ended the league stage of the competition with two wins from four games, garnering nine points.
Sri Lanka too have nine points but have a better run rate and game in hand. They play India tomorrow ahead of the final on July 11. India have five points from three games and find themselves in a must win situation.
The West Indies had an awful start to their chase. Shaminda Eranga and captain Angelo Mathews wrecked the home team’s top order, reducing it to 31 for four by the ninth over. 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. Gayle was caught at a very short third-man by Eranga for 14. Eranga then took a sharp return catch to get rid of Charles for 14 and Samuels back-foot punch only got as far as Mahela Jayawardene at first slip with his score on zero.
Devon Smith, who selectors must surely now realise cannot take his game further than the regional level, missed a straight ball on his pads and was lbw to Mathews for another duck in the series.
Simmons and Bravo now had a task at hand but they found it difficult to up the scoring rate initially. The West Indies were crawling at 60 for four in 20 overs, needing another 171 off 126 balls.
As their partnerships progressed, the runs started coming. Simmons was the aggressor, smashing five fours and four big sixes during the fifth-wicket stand. The target suddenly seemed very gettable.
With the rain expected anytime and West Indies behind the Duckworth-Lewis score, Simmons attempted another six only to hole out to deep cover.
Stand-in captain Kieron Pollard came in next and his innings lasted just four balls, continuing his dry run in the tournament. Pollard edged a nondescript poke at a delivery from Lasith Malinga and departed for his third duck in four innings. With captain Dwayne Bravo to return to the team either for the final, if West Indies make it, or against Pakistan in a few days’ time, Pollard’s elevation to stand-in captain could prove a major aberration as he looks the one most likely to get the boot.
Earlier, Sangakkara helped Sri Lanka post a fighting total after two spells of rain shortened the game. A passing shower delayed the match start. The game was reduced to 45 overs a side before the teams got on the field. The play could only last for 12 overs as rain hit the ground again, leaving Sri Lanka at 122 for four in 23 overs. Sangakkara was on 40 and Mathews 17. The match was further curtailed to 41 overs when Sri Lanka came out to bat again.
The disruption did not help the visiting side which found it tough to settle against West Indies speedsters. Kemar Roach (4/27), who struck twice in his lethal spell Sunday, continued to trouble the batsmen removing Mathews (30) who added 46 with Sangakkara in a swift partnership and Jeevan Mendis in the same over. Sri Lanka now were 147 for six in 35 overs.
Sangakkara was still in the middle and he gave some much needed impetus to the innings as the visitors added 105 in the last 10 overs.
While Roach was out of the attack, the southpaw punished Tino Best for bowling loose balls, smacking him for a six and four. In all, he collected six boundaries and a maximum. Best, who bowled too short yet again, also gifted a number of wides with makeshift keeper Charles finding difficulty in hauling in the powerfully built Barbadian’s wayward deliveries over his head. In all West Indies conceded a whopping 31 extras which would later return to haunt them.
Now they must wait on tomorrow’s clash between India and Sri Lanka to see if they make the final.