Such is the power in West Indies’ batting, that on Wednesday, Dwayne Bravo could have come in as low as No. 9. He didn’t, because he was unrequired. Without Shimron Hetmyer, Rovman Powell and Bravo facing a single ball, West Indies still muscled their way to an imposing 196. Sri Lanka never quite looked like they were going to get there.
How do Sri Lanka turn this around, with only one day in between games? As has been the case all through the past 18 months, they rely heavily on Lasith Malinga to provide early wickets, and they struggle when he doesn’t break through. Perhaps they will reflect that Wanindu Hasaranga – Sri Lanka’s most dangerous bowler from the ODI series – could have been brought into the attack sooner than the 13th over. But he and Malinga can’t be saddled with all the wicket-taking. If Sri Lanka are to challenge West Indies in the second match, the likes of Isuru Udana, Lakshan Sandakan and Thisara Perera will need to present more of a threat to the opposition top order as well.
West Indies’ only real concern is how to make the best use of their extraordinary batting depth. On Wednesday, they perhaps did well to move Andre Russell to No. 4, before Kieron Pollard promoted himself to No. 5 – both those batsmen hitting 30s at strike rates of well over 200 through the middle period. Thanks to Oshane Thomas’ five wickets inside the Powerplay, the West Indies attack was never really questioned.
West Indies WWLLW (completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka LLLLL
In the spotlight
Lakshan Sandakan has played more than 50 international matches, and has been around the top team since the middle of 2016, and yet, hasn’t quite managed to nail down a spot in any of Sri Lanka’s first-choice XIs. He was just okay through the ODIs, while Hasaranga carved them up. On Wednesday, he delivered three good overs, giving away just 19 runs and even claiming the wicket of Brandon King. But his last over cost 19 runs and ruined those figures – though it was no less devastating a batsman than Andre Russell who took him apart. The team management is showing serious faith in Sandakan at the moment, playing him in each of Sri Lanka’s matches on this tour. He would do well to repay them with a performance that is good from start to finish.
West Indies’ more destructive batsmen may command the greater share of attention, but Lendl Simmons has been outstanding at the top of the order in recent weeks. Three times in his last six T20 innings now, Simmons has carried his bat – West Indies winning the match on each of those occasions. On Wednesday, he played the situation beautifully, putting Sri Lanka under pressure by making a charge through the Powerplay, before moving into a supporting role when the bigger hitters came in. He made 67 not out at a strike rate of 131, and he did so without hitting a single boundary in the second half of the innings, letting Russell and Pollard have the pleasure instead.
There’s no real need for West Indies to change their XI. They’ll likely go in with the same team.
West Indies: 1 Llendl Simmons, 2 Brandon King, 3 Shimron Hetmyer, 4 Kieron Pollard (capt.), 5 Nicholas Pooran, 6 Andre Russell, 7 Rovman Powell, 8 Dwayne Bravo,9 Fabian Allen, 10 Sheldon Cottrell, 11 Oshane Thomas
Sri Lanka may think about bringing in Niroshan Dickwella for Shehan Jayasuriya, who collected a golden duck on Wednesday.
Sri Lanka: 1 Kusal Perera, 2 Avishka Fernando, 3 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 4 Kusal Mendis, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Dasun Shanaka, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Wanindu Hasaranga, 9 Isuru Udana, 10 Lasith Malinga (capt.), 11 Lakshan Sandakan
Pitch and conditions
Another good batting track is likely. No rain is forecast.
Stats and trivia
Malinga’s T20 captaincy record since taking over in late 2018 is now 12 losses to one win.
Oshane Thomas is only one of two bowlers to have taken five wickets inside the Powerplay. The other is Malinga, who did it at the same venue in September last year.
Sri Lanka have won six and lost four T20 internationals to West Indies overall, but have lost the last three on the trot.