COLOMBO –– Kusal Perera struck 99 and Lahiru Thirimanne stroked 81 not out, as the second-wicket pair’s 156-run stand made light work of a revised target of 225 in the second ODI against West Indies at the R Premadasa Stadium today.
The match had been shortened to 38 overs a side, after rain forced an interruption of more than three hours and 26.4 overs into West Indies’ innings. Johnson Charles’ searing 83 and Marlon Samuels’ measured 63 formed the guts of the visitors’ score.
The match marked a bona fide return to form for three Sri Lanka cricketers, playing in their favoured format. Thirimanne had been poor enough in Tests to warrant his exclusion last month, but was chanceless today, prospering square of the wicket as fluidity appeared to have returned to his game. Kusal had had a bleak Test series against West Indies with the bat, but here delivered Sri Lanka to the doorstep of victory before miscuing a short ball one run short of his third hundred. A trimmer Lasith Malinga also appeared back to near his best, both with the ball and in the field, effecting two direct-hit run-outs off his own bowling. He collected figures of 2 for 43 from 7.4 overs, first claiming a wicket with his second ball of the game, then thwarting West Indies’ final sprint with his variation.
The victory handed Sri Lanka the series, with the third ODI to be played in Pallekele on Saturday.
Kusal crashed two fours and a six from his first 11 balls, while the new-ball bowlers were in operation, but soon scaled down his ambition when the spinners came early to the crease. He found plenty of singles in the cover region, and was content to progress at less than a run-a-ball until he neared his fifty. He slog-swept seamer Carlos Brathwaite over deep midwicket to reach the milestone, then larruped two more sixes and a four off his next six deliveries. He was lucky to make one of those sixes. The ball was parried over the deep midwicket rope by Jermaine Blackwood and that reprieve on 62 was enough to coax him back into a wiser state of mind.
Thirimanne began his innings with a late cut for four off Sunil Narine, and struck a high, straight six off Samuels soon after but, like Kusal, quickly established a pattern of singles and twos against spin. The cut was his most productive stroke; each of his five fours came in the arc between the keeper and sweeper-cover. Perhaps importantly, Thirimanne was not tested early in his innings by seam bowling, which has recently been a weakness for him.
Kusal fell with 29 runs still to get. The scoring slowed considerably after his departure, but Thirimanne and Dinesh Chandimal nursed the chase home with nine balls to spare.
West Indies appeared poised to push Sri Lanka’s target up closer to 240 when a well-set Samuels and Brathwaite were at the crease at the death. They struck 16 off Suranga Lakmal in the 36th over, but West Indies mustered only six runs from the last two overs, during the course of which their four remaining wickets were all surrendered via run-outs. They made 214 in the end, and this figure was scaled up via the Duckworth-Lewis method.
Earlier, Charles had collected his first boundary via an outside edge that flew over second slip, but he quickly slipped into a more effective attacking rhythm. Charles was particularly severe on the spinners, who were introduced as early as the fifth over. Jermaine Blackwood had holed out trying to put Sachithra Senanayake’s first ball into the sightscreen, but Charles succeeded where Blackwood had failed. Two overs later, Charles ran at Senanayake to put him several metres beyond the sightscreen, registering the first six of the match.
He continued to run at the spinners and hit them straight, but he also found the paddle-sweep productive. He slinked from leg to off to manoeuvre an Ajantha Mendis delivery to the long-leg boundary in the 11th over, then reached his fifty off the next ball, when Mendis went full and Charles launched him over long-on. The half-century was Charles’ fourth in ODIs, and came in 32 deliveries.
Sri Lanka had claimed three wickets at the other end while Charles attacked. In addition to Blackwood, who perished for 9 on his ODI debut, opener Andre Fletcher had also fallen cheaply, nicking Malinga behind first ball. Darren Bravo appeared secure during his 33-ball stay, but was out lobbing Milinda Siriwardana to short midwicket for 21, ending a 70-run stand with Charles.
Samuels had just begun to free his arms, hitting consecutive square boundaries off Ajantha Mendis, before Charles was out lbw to Siriwardana. The rains soon arrived to force the long interruption, when West Indies had reached 149 for 4 after 26.4 overs.
Samuels continued to play his shots after resumption, but lost two partners in quick succession. He could have been out himself for 38 had Shehan Jayasuriya held the chance off Malinga’s bowling at deep cover. Instead, Samuels survived to wallop a straight six during Malinga’s next over, shortly before he completed his 50th run off the 51st delivery he faced.
Samuels was at the centre of a minor controversy in this match, after he was cleared to bowl by the ICC despite the 14-day grace period afforded to reported bowlers having elapsed. West Indies had been wrongly told by the ICC that he was eligible to bowl in this match, and had picked their team on that basis, so the governing body made an exception in this case. He delivered 5.3 overs but did not make a major impact on the match.