Sublime Jayawardene routs West Indies
Sri Lanka wrapped up a crushing 57-run win over a disappointingly lacklustre West Indies in Barbados after Mahela Jayawardene's sublime unbeaten 98 from 56 balls took them to 195 for 3. Jayawardene took full toll of a shambolic West Indian fielding performance in a 166-run partnership for the second wicket with Kumar Sangakkara - the highest of the tournament so far - and when Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Chris Gayle fell early in West Indies' chase, the fight went from their batsmen.
The inept West Indian batting was merely a continuance of their fielding effort, as the rot set in when five straightforward chances went down to allow Sri Lanka to take their score into the stratosphere. Jayawardene, whose superb form carried his side into the Super Eights, displayed silky touch and superb manipulation of the bowling in his innings, and Sangakkara, while not quite in Jayawardene's league at the moment, matched him almost shot for shot.
Jerome Taylor, on his return to international cricket after a six-month lay-off, should have had Sanath Jayasuriya, opening in place of the wretchedly out-of-form Tillekaratne Dilshan, caught by Kieron Pollard at backward point from his second ball. It was a regulation chance for a fielder in that position, but Pollard couldn't hold on to it, and the lapse set the tone for West Indies' performance in the field for the rest of the afternoon.
After Kemar Roach got rid of Jayasuriya, Taylor suffered another lapse from his fielders in his second over, as the normally-reliable Gayle put Sangakkara down at slip before he had scored. Jayawardene lifted the very next ball handsomely over wide long on for six. With that, the moment had passed and the rest of the match was entirely Sri Lanka's.
Both Sangakkara and Jayawardene flashed airily at the odd delivery, but were level-headed enough to keep their composure and capitalise on the bad balls that came, predictably, at least once an over. As the partnership gained momentum, West Indies seemed almost resigned to the fact that a large total was in the offing, and a missed caught-and-bowled chance from Pollard's first ball of the match barely registered.
As West Indies' fielding became ever more ragged, a fourth chance was missed as Benn found bounce and turn to elicit a rare mistake from Jayawardene, who was tempted out of his crease by a flighted delivery. But Fletcher fumbled the take, allowing Jayawardene to scramble back. Three balls later, things became even more farcical as Jayawardene top-edged Benn almost straight up in the air, and Fletcher and Wavell Hinds, the two closest fielders, both stood back and watched the ball plummet down, each expecting the other to go for it.
It looked as though Jayawardene would be able to reach his second hundred of the tournament when he took 10 runs from Bravo's final two balls to reach 97 with six balls still to be bowled. He was stranded at the wrong end in the final over, unable to reach the landmark, but through him Sri Lanka were able to post a massive total.
Chanderpaul began with a paddled six over deep backward square and a cracking off drive in Angelo Matthews' first over, but was out next ball, top-edging an ugly swipe to be caught at short third man. Gayle followed him two balls later, undone by a touch of extra bounce and nip off the seam by the impressive Nuwan Kulasekara, and West Indies were 23 for 2. His wicket stunned the large crowd into silence, and a similarly shell-shocked Ramnaresh Sarwan and Dwayne Bravo trundled along at under a run a ball for the first 30 runs of their partnership.
Their stand eventually crept past fifty, but soon after Bravo flapped Lasith Malinga straight to Matthews at cover with 120 needed off just 56 balls. With the hitting power of Pollard to come, it was still just possible that West Indies could get close, but inexplicably Andre Fletcher was sent in ahead of him, and struggled to get the ball off the square.
When Sarwan departed, chipping a tame return catch back to Mendis, Pollard finally arrived, but the Sri Lankan spin attack, together with Malinga's pinpoint yorkers, strangled every attempt to reach the boundary. The required run-rate rocketed up beyond 20, and even before Pollard skied Mendis to wide long on, the result was a foregone conclusion.
Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor of Cricinfo