Series on the line as West Indies, Sri Lanka go into battle
It had been over a year since Sri Lanka played ODIs, and yet the script for Wednesday’s ODI seemed so familiar. For decent stretch of the game, they appeared confident – dominant, even – as Dimuth Karunaratne and Danushka Gunathilaka sailed to half-centuries and put them seemingly on track for a total in the range of 300.
The collapse that followed was tragicomic. There were two run-outs, both extremely avoidable. Gunathilaka was given out unfairly – bizarrely, actually – obstructing the field, when there was scant evidence of wilful obstruction.
Experienced batsmen floundered under the pressure West Indies put them under, and it fell to a 22-year old debutant – Ashen Bandara – to provide respectability to the total with a middle-order half-century.
To the extent that form exists in pandemic cricket, West Indies went into that first match with worse form than Sri Lanka, but so comfortable was their first win, they must now like their chances of sealing the series on Friday.
The attack, which at one stage seemed insipid, was inspired by captain Kieron Pollard’s intensity in his first spell, and once they had Sri Lanka by the collar, refused to loosen their grip.
On the batting front, Shai Hope’s hunger for ODI runs has proved to be undimmed by the months-long hiatus. Perhaps even more importantly, they were able to play out their tormentor from the T20s – Wanindu Hasaranga – without giving him a wicket.
This was helped by a track that took little turn, and the fact that there was next to no pressure to score runs off his bowling, so paltry was the Sri Lanka target. But still – top-order batsmen now have had time in the middle against him.
In the spotlight
Shai Hope may have done Shai Hope things, but almost as impressive was Evin Lewis‘ departure from his regular style, to play an innings that fit his team’s circumstance.
While Hope was fluent almost from the outset, striking a variety of pleasing off-side boundaries, Lewis was almost stodgy in comparison, where ordinarily he would be expected to provide the impetus in the powerplay. Of the 90 balls he faced, 52 were dots.
And of the 65 runs he scored, only 28 came from boundaries, where the remaining 37 were from singles and twos – and almost obscene scoring split for him. Don’t expect his big-hitting to go anywhere. But perhaps know that when the team needs him to, Lewis has this safer, low gear as well.
While Hasaranga was being played out safely, Dushmantha Chameera became Sri Lanka’s primary wicket-taking threat, beating both Lewis and Hope with raw pace as he bowled them both, if a little too late in the game to make a serious impact.
Though he played his first ODI for Sri Lanka as far back as the 2015 World Cup, Chameera’s has been a frustrating career so far, as injuries – including a stress fracture – have seen him sidelined for months, as the likes of Lahiru Kumara and Kasun Rajitha leapfrogged him on the seam-bowling list. He seems to be in excellent rhythm in the Caribbean, though, and he has been the quickest bowler on tour so far.
Sri Lanka are desperate to find limited-overs wicket-takers for their post-Malinga era. Could Chameera become that regular penetrative force?
West Indies have no real reason to mess with their XI, with almost all their bowlers having pitched in, in the first match, and no batsman having been dismissed for less than a fifty.
West Indies (possible): 1 Shai Hope (wk), 2 Evin Lewis, 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Jason Mohammed, 5 Nicholas Pooran, 6 Kieron Pollard (capt.), 7 Jason Holder, 8 Romario Shepherd, 9 Fabian Allen, 10 Akeal Hosein, 11 Alzarri Joseph
Sri Lanka may toy with leaving out Kamindu Mendis – who made little impact with ball and bat – for the experience of Thisara Perera. But then perhaps they will show a little more faith in 22-year-old Mendis. Dasun Shanaka is still in quarantine, and unavailable. There may also be a temptation to bring in off-spinning all-rounder Ramesh Mendis.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Dimuth Karunaratne (capt.), 2 Danushka Gunathilaka, 3 Pathum Nissanka, 4 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Ashen Bandara, 7 Kamindu Mendis/Thisara Perera, 8 Wanindu Hasaranga, 9 Lakshan Sandakan, 10 Dushmantha Chameera, 11 Nuwan Pradeep (ESPNCricinfo)