Sri Lanka 290 for 9 (Karunaratne 52, Fernando 50, Hasaranga 42*, Joseph 3-42) beat West Indies 289 for 7 (Hope 115, Bravo 52, Hope 3-82) by one wicket
Wanindu Hasaranga watched more experienced team-mates throw their wickets away, saw his team slip repeatedly from excellent positions, and then, with only the tail for company, shepherded Sri Lanka to their target with a clever, nerveless innings that made up for all those batting mistakes.
Sri Lanka still had 28 to get – off 27 balls – when No. 10 Lakshan Sandakan came to the crease – the game decidedly in West Indies’ favour. Hasaranga, 22, was playing only his 10th ODI innings, but took the game by its collar, hitting successive fours off Sheldon Cottrell in the 47th over to get the runs required down to below the balls available. Then, he farmed the strike, turning down singles, as West Indies put their efforts into targeting the other batsman. As the bowlers began to lose their nerve, sending down wides, and missing their lengths, Hasaranga’s resolve just grew stronger.
He tied the game with a boundary through point off Cottrell, and although he lost Sandakan to a run-out early in the final over, he was on strike to shovel one more ball over the legside infield. In the end, the winning run turned out to be a no-ball, delivered by Keemo Paul, who had bowled sensibly until his last two overs.
Hasaranga guided home the highest ever chase at the SSC, and Sri Lanka’s first successful chase of a target over 250 in more than two years. He finished 42 not out off 39 balls, having struck four fours and a stunning pulled six off Paul, though that shot had come relatively early in his innings. His innings not only outshone those of his team-mates, it also trumped a much more substantial knock from Shai Hope, who had struck 115 off 140 to help West Indies to their imposing score.
At times in the chase, Sri Lanka seemed to be ascendant on multiple occasions, but every time they were on the cusp of stability, batsmen insisted on taking bad options, or conjuring up a bizarre dismissals to a nothing ball, introducing fresh insecurities to the chase.
Kusal Mendis seemed to be in good touch, having hit a towering straight six off Roston Chase, after working his way into the innings with a series of legside singles. He flayed a wild full toss from Hayden Walsh Jr through the offside early in the 27th over, but managed to hole out to mid-on when presented with another full toss a few balls later. Dhananjaya de Silva, similarly, was advancing smoothly, when he attempted to launch Walsh Jr into the sightscreen. Instead, he was caught brilliantly by Paul.
Later, both Kusal Perera and Thisara Perera committed even more egregious errors. Sri Lanka needed only 75 at a run-a-ball, with a good partnership blossoming, when Kusal pulled Paul towards deep square leg, where Darren Bravo ran in and completed another outstanding low, diving catch. About half an hour after that, Sri Lanka needed 37 off 45 balls, with not a lot of batting to come, when Thisara holed out to the legside sweeper. West Indies did brilliantly to capitalise on each of these mistakes, but they were, in essence, unforced errors.
Thankfully for Sri Lanka, though, their openers had given them a platform, and it was Dimuth Karunaratne and Avishka Fernando’s 111-run stand that gave shape to this chase. Both batsmen rode their luck, playing and missing frequently, while Karunaratne offered two catching (half) chances, and survived a close lbw shout on his way to 52. But their calculated risks paid off as Sri Lanka raced to 78 inside the Powerplay, Karunaratne hitting five fours, and Avishka five fours and a six.
It was because these two had got Sri Lanka so far ahead in the game that the middle order batsmen could afford to be wasteful.
Hope’s innings, earlier, had been a triumph of stability. He had to use a review when he was wrongly given out second ball, and endured a few nervous moments in the Powerplay, but otherwise determinedly ground his way to a 10th ODI ton, putting on a 77-run second-wicket stand with Bravo, and 85 for the third wicket with Chase. Occasionally Hope would hit out, but largely he let his partners make the more aggressive moves, while he focused on turning the strike over. Against the spinners, he was prolific through midwicket, routinely taking singles in that region. He got to fifty off his 77th delivery, and only slightly upped the tempo after that. He was bowled trying to hit out in the slog overs.
Paul may reflect that he failed to close out the innings efficiently with the ball, but no one can have those complaints about his batting. West Indies’ batting seemed to be fizzling out in the death overs, when Paul took control, hitting 32 off 17, as he and No. 10 batsman Walsh Jr put on 49 off 20 balls. In the end, another 22-year-old allrounder, whom Paul had played against during the 2017 Under-19 World Cup, would play an even braver innings, and haul the opposition over the line.