October 4, 2000

West Indies head for home as Sri Lanka cruise to victory

It's a long way from the Caribbean to Kenya for just one match. Even more so for Jimmy Adams, the West Indian captain prevented by injury from playing as his team crashed to a 108-run defeat against Sri Lanka in the second preliminary round match at ICC KnockOut at the Nairobi Gymkhana Club on Wednesday.

Adams has a torn intercostal muscle, but it's a moot point whether his presence would have made a great deal of difference anyway as the decline of West Indian cricket continued apace.

On the day, the former champions of both the Test and one-day games were thoroughly outplayed by a confident Sri Lankan team, one that already looks one of the sides to beat in this tournament.

The Sri Lankans shrugged off an early wobble as Mervyn Dillon reduced them to 10 for two to storm to an impressive 287 for six. The bulk of the innings came from a 160-run third wicket partnership between Aviska Gunawardena and Mahela Jayawardena and it was during the 27.3 overs that these two batted together that the match was hauled away from the West Indians.

Jayawardena was in sensational form, taking only 71 balls for his 72. He played quite beautifully in taking the leading role in the stand, but Gunawardena was hardly a sleeping partner.

Gunawardena's method is founded in the stand and deliver philosophy and he stood and delivered on Wednesday. He misses a fair bit, but when he connects he brings brawn to the traditional Sri Lankan virtues of quickness of wrist and eye and he played what may yet prove to be the most entertaining innings of the tournament.

He had luck. A good deal of it, in fact. He edged Nixon McLean dangerously close to second slip before opening his account; he was dropped twice in the same Dillon over during the 70s; Laurie Williams fluffed an easy run out opportunity with Gunawardena on 95; he was caught at long-off off a Dillon no ball on 121.

But few, other than the West Indians, were complaining as Gunawardena enjoyed himself on another excellent pitch, the second in as many days.

There was also a quick-fire 45 from Russell Arnold towards the end and if the West Indies were to be competitive they needed a decent start and a substantial contribution from Brian Lara. They got neither.

Courtney Brown heaved Nuwan Zoysa over mid-off in the second over of the innings, but the shot flattered only to deceive. Before 10 overs had been bowled the West Indians had slipped to 41 for four. Sherwin Campbell, captain for the day in Adams' place, had been run out by an excellent pickup and throw from Arnold, while the other three wickets, including Lara for just 5, had been caught Kaluwitharana, bowled Wickramasinghe.

Williams and Mahendra added 74 for the seventh wicket, but the match had long since tilted towards Sri Lanka and it was all over in the 47th over when Arnold bowled Nixon McLean.

If the West Indians, again, were hugely disappointing, Sri Lanka were very, very impressive. The rest of the field might take note that they succeeded without significant contributions from their big guns. Sanath Jayasuriya and Marvan Attpattu managed only four runs between them and Muttiah Muralitharan failed to take a wicket, although he conceded only nine off his 10 overs. They now face Pakistan in the quarterfinals on Sunday and the smart money might well be on the 1996 World Cup winners to advance to the semis, if not to go all the way.