CHESTER-LE –STREET, England – Left-hander Nicholas Pooran slammed a maiden international hundred but was outshone by a similar feat by Avishka Fernando as West Indies once again squandered a match-winning position, to slump to a 23-run defeat to Sri Lanka and their sixth loss of the ICC World Cup today.
Cheered on by Barbadian global pop superstar, Rihanna, in pursuit of a challenging 339 at the Riverside, West Indies recovered from 199 for six in the 35th over to reach 282 for seven in the 45th over, courtesy of a flamboyant 118 from Pooran and a blistering career-best 51 from Fabian Allen – the pair posting 83 for the seventh wicket.
However, with 57 runs required from 36 deliveries, West Indies suffered a catastrophic blow when Allen was run out with the momentum of the match having shifted from Sri Lanka. He turned a delivery to short fine leg, belatedly accepted a call for the quick single with Pooran already bearing down on him, and was run out by nearly half-length of the pitch.
His dismissal proved the turning point and the Windies demise was confirmed when Pooran was caught at the wicket in the 48th over, flashing at medium pacer Angelo Mathews’s first ball in one-dayers in a year-and-a-half.
All told, Pooran belted 11 fours and four sixes off 103 balls.
Veteran opener Chris Gayle helped carry West Indies early on with a patient 35 while Shimron Hetmyer chipped in with 29, and captain Jason Holder, 26, reviving their side after speedster Lasith Malinga (3-55) had reduced the innings to 22 for two in the fifth over.
None carried on, however, leaving West Indies short on 315 for nine off their 50 overs, and with their fifth straight defeat in as many games – their worst ever showing at a World Cup.
Fernando had earlier put Sri Lanka in control of the encounter, gathering 104 from 103 balls as the Asians ended on 338 for six off 50 overs – their highest ever ODI total against the Caribbean side.
Kusal Perera stroked 64 and Lahiru Thirimanne struck 45 while Kusal Mendis (39) and captain Dimuth Karunaratne (32) chipped in with vital knocks.
Sent in, Perera and Karunaratne gave Sri Lanka a splendid start when they capitalised on loose bowling to put on 93 off 92 deliveries for the first wicket.
Perera’s knock was a breezy one, striking eight fours off 51 deliveries while Karunaratne counted four fours in a 48-ball knock before slashing at a wide one from Holder and edging to wicketkeeper Shai Hope in the 16th over.
Three overs later, West Indies claimed their second wicket when Perera was run out at the non-striker’s end, failing to make his ground after being sent back by Fernando in mix-up over a second run.
However, Fernando then took the game away from the Windies in an innings containing nine fours and two sixes, while anchoring three successive half-century partnerships to put Sri Lanka back on top.
Playing in only his third match of the World Cup, the 21-year-old posted 85 for the third wicket with Mendis, 58 for the fourth wicket with Mathews (26) before adding a further 67 for the fifth wicket with Thirimanne.
He reached three figures in the 47th over off exactly 100 balls before falling in the next over, caught at long-off off left-arm pacer Sheldon Cottrell.
The Windies hopes of a solid start were then dashed as Malinga removed opener Sunil Ambris (5), gloving a pull behind in the third over and Hope (5), dragging on two overs later.
Gayle and Hetmyer came together to add 49 for the third wicket in a rebuilding effort but the partnership was a slow one, requiring 62 deliveries and built pressure on the innings.
Left-hander Gayle tried to loosen the shackles but succeeded only in skying seamer Kasun Rajitha to Jeffrey Vandersay running back at gully in the 16th over, after facing 48 balls and hitting one four and a couple of sixes.
And Hetmyer, who counted two fours in an unusually humdrum 38-ball knock, perished two overs later via the run out route after he was sent back in a mix-up over a quick single with Pooran.
Staggering on 84 for four, West Indies steadied themselves through the efforts of Pooran who put on 61 for the fifth wicket with Holder before dominating a 54-run, sixth wicket partnership with Carlos Brathwaite (8).
The 23-year-old blossomed from a slow start – he managed just 16 runs from his first 27 balls – to reach his second half-century of the tournament off 57 deliveries by smashing the first ball of Karunaratne’s solitary over of slow medium over long on for six.
Pooran required only another 35 balls for his century, reaching the landmark in the 45th over with a couple to deep mid-wicket off left-arm seamer Isuru Udana.
Along the way he lost Holder, lazily lifting leg-spinner Vandersay to substitute Jeevan Mendis at mid-on in the 29th over and Brathwaite six overs later, run out at the non-striker’s end after a firm drive touched Udana’s fingers on its way to shattering the stumps with the batsman backing up too far.
Allen, in only his second match of the World Cup, then changed the game in an exhilarating cameo, lashing seven fours and a six to haul the Windies back into the contest.
Together with Pooran, he shifted the odds back in the Caribbean side’s favour but his unnecessary run out at the death was a blow from which West Indies never recovered. (CMC)
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