The hard-hitting opening batsmen Gunawardane scored his first one-day century as the favorites Sri Lanka, batting first, piled up 287 for 6 to beat the West Indies by a margin of 108 runs in the pre-quarterfinal of the ICC KnockOut.
The West Indies lost an early advantage they had gained by getting two best Sri Lankan batsmen, Jaysuria and Atapattu, out with the total at 10. This loss of advantage was mainly due to the inexperience found in the Caribbean bowling because of the absence of Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose in the side.
After Mervyn Dillon had gotten rid of both the Lankan skipper and his reliable deputy in his 3rd over, things looked gloomy for the Sri Lankans. However, with the introduction of medium pacers, Kerry Jeremy and Laurie Williams-both debutantes, the goings changed remarkably in favor of Sri Lanka. It was during this period that the two batsmen at the crease, the hard-hitting left handed opener Gunawardane and Jayawardane, did not only make amends for the early setback by batting watchfully but also found some boundaries as well. Although Williams was quite tidy in his opening spell, Jeremy was wayward in his line and length as he gave away 24 runs in his first two overs.
Cautious at first, the two batsmen soon opened up their shoulders and runs began to flow freely. It was at this juncture that the stand-in captain Sherwin Campbell brought on his spinners. But this move also didn't pay off as the Sri Lankan batsmen played their shots with command and authority. The stylish Jayawardane was particularly harsh on the leg-spinner, Nagamootoo and the debutante off-spinner, Marlon Samuel. The acceleration shown by the Sri Lankan batsmen at this stage is evident from the fact that whereas the first fifty was reached in 13.1 overs, the next one took less than nine overs to complete.
Jayawardane reached his fifty ahead of his partner, taking just 52 balls for that. Gunawardane achieved the same feat in 65 balls. However, the latter cut loose at this stage and scored at a brisk pace. The marathon partnership between Jayawardane and Gonawardane had reached 160 when the former was caught by Courtney Brown off the bowling of Jeremy for 72 scored from 71 balls. The next batsman Sangakarra had but a brief stay at the crease as he was run out in a most unfortunate manner. The ball delivered by Jeremy was hit with brute force back to the bowler. The catch, to the relief of the batsmen at the batting crease, was dropped but the ball rolled on to the stumps at the bowling end only to find Sangakarra out of his crease.
Russell Arnold was next to come and he continued the good work, which was temporarily hampered by the fall of two quick wickets. He and Gunawardane added more than fifty runs for the 5th wicket and that too in a very short time. Arnold made quick 41 before he was played on off the bowling of Mclean. Gunawardane, in the meanwhile, completed his first hundred in 125 balls, studded with 14 hits to the boundary. Although, he was dropped three times during the innings, twice in one over of Dillon, and also caught off a no-ball, yet credit must go to him for the way he controlled his innings with caution as well as aggression after the early fall of two important wickets. Another important fact about his innings is that he did not lose his concentration even after getting to his ton, although he seemed visibly tired. When, at last, he was out, bowled round his legs by Mclean, the Sri Lankan score was well past the 250 mark. He made 132 with the help of 19 fours. The experienced Kaluwidharna collected a few boundaries in the end of the innings to post an imposing total of 287 in the allotted 50 overs.
The West Indian bowling lacked experience as they conceded too many boundaries during the innings by straying from the line. However, blame also falls on the poor display of fielding by the Caribbeans as they let off three chances of catches and, at least, as many opportunities of run outs. Mervyn Dillon was the most successful bowler picking 2 for 46, followed by Mclean who took 2 for 56. The young seamer, Kerry Jeremy, took one wicket for 54 on his debut.
The West Indian openers started the proceedings with aggression-Courtney Brown hitting a huge six in the second over and Campbell executing some beautifully timed square-cuts to the boundary. However, the fall of Brown's wickets at the total of 35 in the 6th over triggered a mini-collapse as 4 wickets fell in the space of 6 runs, including the prize wicket of Brian Lara. The main damage was done by the left arm pace bowler Zoysa who took the wickets of Brown and Lara in the space of two overs to leave the Windies staggering at 4 for 41.
The West Indies had lost six wickets for just 85 on the board. A partnership of 74 between Nagamootoo and Williams brought some respectability to their total. Williams became the highest scorer for the West Indies making 41; Nagamootoo got 33. The West Indian tail had a daunting task to achieve?requiring 120 in the last 8 overs. However, they had no answer to the tidy bowling of their rivals. They were all out for paltry 179 in 46.4 overs, thus, conceding the match by 108 runs.
Zoysa was the most successful bowler for Sri Lanka, taking 3 wickets for 34. Wickramasinghe and Jayasuria took 2 wickets each for 37 and 30 runs, respectively. Russell Arnold took one for 29, while the remaining two batsmen were run out.
Sri Lanka now meets Pakistan in the quarterfinal on Sunday. The winner of this match will meet either New Zealand or Zimbabwe in the semi-final of the competition.