West Indies pull off a superb win
West Indies stormed back into contention in the IndianOil Cup with a convincing 33-run victory over Sri Lanka at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. After fifties from Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Sylvester Joseph had propelled West Indies to a competitive total of 226, their bowlers performed as a tight unit to demolish Sri Lanka's batting. The result means that Sunday's match between India and West Indies becomes a semi-final, but more importantly, it means that West Indies have managed to inject some much-needed pride into a tour that has gone horribly wrong from the start.
After two disastrous Test matches and a couple of below-par performances in the tri-series so far, few would have given them a semblance of a chance against tournament favourites Sri Lanka. West Indies needed to ring the changes and quickly, if they were to put up a fight. And change they did. The most important move of the day was to install Chanderpaul at the top of the order, a place that many would argue should have been his all along. And then, there was the other inspired move to bring in Omari Banks as an additional spin-bowling option. Not only did Banks pick up the key wickets of Mahela Jayawardene and Upul Chandana, the two heroes of Sri Lanka's miraculous victory against India on Wednesday, he also squeezed the flow of runs down to a trickle. With wickets coming from every West Indian bowler who was thrown the cricket ball, Sri Lanka first tripped, then stumbled, and finally collapsed as spectators watched in open-mouthed disbelief. A team of badly-written-off cricketers had just pulled off the unthinkable.
Sri Lanka started off brightly enough. Tino Best was wayward and was replaced after two overs; Deighton Butler bowled with a great deal of heart but just couldn't effect the breakthrough. Until the 10th over, that is. With Sri Lanka's score on 46, Sanath Jayasuriya was adjudged leg before to a Butler delivery that moved in a fair bit. It was just reward for Butler, who carried on his fine performance from the previous game against India, and deserved to have been utilised much earlier on the tour. Upul Tharanga and Kumar Sangakkara started to consolidate, when Sangakkara was out to a dazzler of a one-handed catch by Xavier Marshall at point (64 for 2).
It got worse three overs later. Dwayne Smith, producing movement in the steam-bath that is the Premadasa, picked up two wickets off consecutive balls to dent Sri Lanka further. Smith first produced the perfect full delivery on off stump to remove Tharanga. He then trapped Tillakaratne Dilshan with one that nipped back and would have hit middle stump (73 for 4). Jayawardene, the acting captain in Marvan Atapattu's absence, had begun to repair the damage, along with Russel Arnold, when he miscued Banks down Daren Powell's throat, and West Indies were sensing an improbable victory.
Arnold was the only Sri Lankan batsman to keep his wits about him, scoring 59 runs, most of which were in the company of the tail. He was last out. The bottom half of Sri Lanka's batting fought gamely, but found themselves no match for a resurgent West Indies team. Chandana edged Banks to slip; Farveez Maharoof played his strokes before succumbing to the indefatigable, irrepressible Best. Nuwan Zoysa was done in by the quicker one from Narsingh Deonarine, while Muttiah Muralitharan skied Powell to long-on.
Earlier in the afternoon, Chanderpaul and Sylvester Joseph scored contrasting fifties to propel West Indies to 226 for 7 at the end of their allotted overs. While it was Chanderpaul's fifth half-century of the calendar year, Joseph's 58 was his highest score in any international match, eclipsing his 45 against England last summer. The lower order duly fell away, however, although Banks knocked the ball around a bit towards the end. More than anything else, the second half of the innings was marked by clumsiness and cluelessness, as a total of four run-outs indicated, as well as the lack of a real plan to build on the solid foundation created by the top order.
After two Test matches and three one-dayers on the tour, West Indies finally looked in control at the start of their innings, thanks to Chanderpaul's presence at the crease. He opened the innings with Marshall, and generally dealt in boundaries - his 57 consisted of eight hits to the fence. Joseph, on the other hand, rarely looked convincing early in his knock. He took all of 15 balls to get off the mark, but West Indies were helped greatly by having one enormously experienced batsman at the other end. Chanderpaul scored two consecutive fours in a wayward Zoysa over, and even took Muralitharan on, sweeping him convincingly through the deep-square-leg area. Chandana eventually picked up his wicket: Chanderpaul, attempting to drive, spooned a simple catch to Maharoof at gully.
What followed was fairly predictable. The West Indies rookies, minus their shepherd, Chanderpaul, seemed unable to come to terms with the fact that they actual held the upper hand for the better part of the innings. Joseph hung on grimly for a while, before starting to unfurl his shots - the highlight of his innings was a towering six of Chandana - and while Deonarine seemed unable to convince either himself or the spectators that he truly belonged at this level, Banks at least did his best to appear busy. Ricardo Powell, batting prowess left behind somewhere in the past, and Smith were worth one spanking boundary apiece, and Best made yet another case for a promotion in the order. The total of 226 seemed 20 runs too short, given Sri Lanka's imposing batting line-up, but at the end of a crazy, magical evening, it turned out to be just enough.
Xavier Marshall run out (Tharanga) 8 (22 for 1)
Direct hit from mid-on
Shivnarine Chanderpaul c Maharoof b Chandana 57 (97 for 2)
Spooned a catch to gully from a mishit drive
Narsingh Deonarine lbw b Chandana 21 (152 for 3)
Trapped on the back foot after missing an ungainly slog
Sylvester Joseph run out (Dilshan/Fernando) 58 (165 for 4)
Sent back by partner; couldn't get back home in time
Dwayne Smith lbw b Muralitharan 13 (189 for 5)
Played back to the one that turned in
Ricardo Powell run out (Muralitharan/Maharoof) 8 (206 for 6)
Mix-up found him stranded well short
Omari Banks run out (Jayawardene/Maharoof) 33 (224 for 7)
Found well short going for second run
Sanath Jayasuriya lbw b Butler 23 (46 for 1)
Trapped leg before to a ball that moved in
Kumar Sangakkara c Marshall b Daren Powell 7 (64 for 2)
Cut to point; marvellous diving catch
Upul Tharanga b Smith 25 (73 for 3)
Played across to a full ball on off stump
Tillakaratne Dilshan lbw b Smith 0 (73 for 4)
Ball nipped back to hit him in front of middle stump
Mahela Jayawardene c Daren Powell b Banks 20 (92 for 5)
Skied a heave to midwicket
Upul Chandana c sub (Morton) b Banks 4 (107 for 6)
Edged a drive to slip
Farveez Maharoof c Ramdin b Best 20 (140 for 7)
Angled across, thin edge to keeper
Nuwan Zoysa b Deonarine 9 (163 for 8)
Surprised by quicker delivery
Muttiah Muralitharan c Marshall b Daren Powell (171 for 9)
Skied to long-on
Russel Arnold b Deonarine 59 (193 all out)
Missed the line of one which pitched outside off and spun back in
Ranajit Dam is staff writer of Cricinfo