Maharoof sizzles in thumping win
This was billed as the first real contest of the Champions Trophy, but it turned out to be shockingly one-sided, as Sri Lanka thrashed West Indies by nine wickets in the first ODI at the Brabourne Stadium in 11 years. West Indies had beaten Zimbabwe and Bangladesh by convincing margins, but here they turned out a minnow-like performance themselves, being bundled out for 80, their lowest total in an ODI against Sri Lanka, who chased it down in a mere 13.2 overs and ensured that the game was done and dusted about four hours before the scheduled close.
Brian Lara won the toss and chose to bat, but from the moment Chris Gayle fell to the fourth ball of the match, it was one relentless procession back to the pavilion. Chaminda Vaas started the slide with a couple of wickets but the star of the show was Farveez Maharoof, who ripped through the middle and lower order to finish with outstanding figures of 6 for 14, his best in an ODI and the best figures in a Champions Trophy match. So dominant were the Sri Lankan medium pacers that Muttiah Muralitharan wasn't even needed till West Indies were seven down.
It was the first international match at the Brabourne Stadium in 11 years, and such were the conditions that Sri Lanka surely won't mind playing as many games as possible here. The pitch was slow, the bounce was non-existent - Kumar Sangakkara routinely gathered deliveries on the bounce - and the ball gripped the surface, making strokeplay extremely difficult. These conditions are usually a description of the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo, where Sri Lanka have a 41-16 win-loss record.
Admittedly, run-scoring was difficult here, but that hardly justifies the sort of capitulation that was on display today. The first few wickets fell to excellent deliveries, and thereafter the West Indian lower middle order seemed intent to finish off the game as quickly as possible, going hard at the ball, and showing no intent to graft, nudge, and last 50 overs. The manner in which Sanath Jayasuriya and Mahela Jayawardene batted later in the evening showed up the West Indian effort, as both read the pace of the pitch, timed the ball crisply, and even managed to play some sumptuous drives, cuts and pulls.
The West Indian rot started with the fourth ball of the match: Gayle, fresh off a century against Bangladesh, nicked the fourth ball of the first over, and Sangakkara dived to his left and forward to scoop the ball just before it touched the turf. Chanderpaul clipped a couple of fours in the next over to get West Indies on the way, but Vaas returned to nail another blow, getting rid of Sarwan, who became the latest in a long line of victims who have succumbed to the one that nips back into the right-hander. And when Malinga struck in his next over with a perfect delivery which clipped the edge of Chanderpaul's bat, West Indies had slumped to 13 for 3.
Lara and Wavell Hinds began the rebuilding exercise, but neither batsman found it easy. Lara needed 12 balls to get off the mark, and was extremely lucky to survive an lbw shout when he was trapped in front by Vaas. Asad Rauf remained unmoved on that occasion, but ruled in favour of the bowler when Maharoof got one to straighten after pitching it on off. It was Maharoof's first strike of the day, and after that he was unstoppable.
Pitching it perfectly on good length, he managed to seam the ball both ways, and was especially effective with the legcutters, getting the ball to grip and bounce from the abrasive surface. The lack of pace on the pitch also meant none of the batsmen could drive him on the up, and with a strong cordon protecting the singles on either side, Maharoof choked the runs and forced the batsmen into indiscretion - Dwayne Bravo flicked too early and was trapped in front, Marlon Samuels chopped one onto his stumps, while Dwayne Smith - in the side for Ian Bradshaw - drove tamely to mid-on.
Through all the mayhem at the other end, Hinds battled hard, never entirely in control but still attempting to break the shackles with the odd powerful cover-drive. He fought his way to 28, before miscuing one to cover. He was the ninth wicket to fall, and the end came soon after.
Sri Lanka suffered an early setback when Tharanga dragged a wide ball back onto his stumps, but that was as good as it got for West Indies, as Jayasuriya and Jayawardene eased into an 83-run stand. The umpires thought about going in for the scheduled dinner break when Sri Lanka were 15 runs from victory, but ultimately better sense prevailed and they decided to continue. As it turned out, Sri Lanka needed a mere eight more balls to wrap it up, and ensure they go into group B to do battle with South Africa, Pakistan and New Zealand in the next stage of the tournament. West Indies, meanwhile, will have the more onerous task - at least on paper - of contending with Australia, India and England. On the basis of their performance today, they have some regrouping to do.
Chris Gayle c Sangakkara b Vaas 0 (1 for 1)
Superb one-handed catch diving forward off an outside edge
Ramnaresh Sarwan lbw b Vaas 0 (12 for 2)
Trapped plumb in front by which pitched on middle and off and jagged back
Shivnarine Chanderpaul c Sangakkara b Malinga 8 (13 for 3)
Peach of a delivery, angled across the batsman and took a thin nick
Brian Lara lbw b Maharoof 13 (51 for 4)
Pitched on middle, straightened, and would have taken middle
Dwayne Bravo lbw b Maharoof 0 (55 for 5)
Too early on the flick; ball thudded into back pad
Marlon Samuels b Maharoof 1 (58 for 6)
Drove away from his body and got an inside edge back onto his stumps
Dwayne Smith c Muralitharan b Maharoof 0 (58 for 7)
Drove too early and straight to mid-on
Carlton Baugh lbw b Maharoof 1 (64 for 8)
Beaten by late inswing and trapped right in front
Wavell Hinds c Jayasuriya b Maharoof 28 (67 for 9)
Low catch at cover off a miscued drive
Fidel Edwards b Malinga 4 (80 all out)
Done in by an inswinging yorker
Upul Tharanga b Edwards 0 (0 for 1)
Inside-edged a full, wide ball back onto his stumps
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo