Sanath Jayasuriya may be turning 40 at the end of the month but his demolition of the West Indian attack, which paved the way for Sri Lanka's 15-run victory at Trent Bridge, was as violent as any innings played during his heydays. In the absence of Chris Gayle, Jayasuriya ensured that the crowd had its fill of massive hits, blitzing 81 off only 47 balls, and his occupation of centre stage was so complete that Tillakaratne Dilshan's second half-century of the tournament was largely overshadowed until after his dismissal.
The West Indian bowlers made novice errors while bowling to Jayasuriya. They often gave him too much width, allowing him to free his muscled forearms and launch the ball over the off side, instead of cramping him for the room he loves. They bowled too short and too straight as well, giving Jayasuriya the space to lift the ball off his pads. Denesh Ramdin, West Indies' captain for the day, was forced to make frequent bowling changes but none of his bowlers were able to break Sri Lanka's opening stand before it caused severe damage. Jayasuriya and Dilshan added 124 for the first wicket in 12.3 overs, and Dilshan took charge thereafter to steer Sri Lanka towards a match-winning total.
Jayasuriya's innings today ended a period of poor Twenty20 form: he had a quiet IPL and his scores in three innings since arriving in England were 26, 1 and 2. He certainly didn't look out of touch today, though, tearing into Fidel Edwards' first over by launching the first ball through cover and the third over cover for fours, before pulling a short fifth ball powerfully over deep backward square leg.
He was aggressive against all comers, slashing Dwayne Bravo in his first over to the boundary, sweeping and reverse sweeping Sulieman Benn, and powering Kieron Pollard to the long-off boundary. And when Edwards returned after everyone else had failed to take a wicket, Jayasuriya attacked him once again, carving the first ball over the point boundary, pulling two short balls for fours behind square, before chipping a wide one past the wicketkeeper. Edwards' two overs cost 37 runs and he wasn't given the ball again.
Jayasuriya dominated the early scoring, contributing 32 out of Sri Lanka's first 40 runs, but Dilshan eventually emerged from his shadow with astonishing improvisation. He moved across his stumps to Pollard's first ball, bent down low, ready to play the scoop and sent it flying over the wicketkeeper's head for four. Dilshan may not have even been looking at the ball as he made contact but it was no fluke. He had played it against Australia and he did it again against Lendl Simmons. Dilshan went on to cut Pollard over point for six and a four during a first over that cost 19. He rattled Pollard, forcing the bowler to abort his run-up by getting into position extremely early to repeat his scoop, and even reverse-swatted Benn for four. He switched to a higher gear after Jayasuriya was dismissed, finished with 74 off 47 balls.
West Indies withered under the onslaught: Benn dropped Dilshan at short third man and Andre Fletcher let one pass him on the fine-leg boundary. The last bowler Ramdin turned to, however, proved to be their best. Simmons first struck in the 13th over, trapping Jayasuriya who attempted a reverse-hit when a century was there for the taking, and his next big wicket, that of Dilshan, was also a result of a failed reverse-sweep. Those two strikes from Simmons helped keep Sri Lanka under 200.
Chasing 193 is a daunting task but even more so when a team is without their most dangerous hitter. West Indies had rested Gayle, who suffered a knee injury during his razing of Australia, because this match was, for all practical purposes, a dead rubber. They were dented further when their other half-centurion against Australia, Andre Fletcher, lost his leg stump to a slower full toss from Lasith Malinga.
Simmons, who opened in Gayle's absence, showed some fight, mowing Ajantha Mendis to the midwicket boundary and reverse-hitting him past short fine leg. West Indies' cause was aided by sloppiness in the field: Jayasuriya and Malinga both conceded five wides and Xavier Marshall's 14 included five overthrows.
West Indies had raced to 65 for 1 after six overs but a passage of play during which they lost three wickets in seven balls ruined their chances of victory. Muttiah Muralitharan landed the first punch, inducing Simmons to edge to first slip, and Mendis struck twice in an over, getting rid of Marshall and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. West Indies had slipped to 73 for 4 and even though Bravo, who reached his 50 off 37 balls with a thunderous six over long-on off Malinga, and Ramnaresh Sarwan shared a 77-run partnership, the innings had lost too much momentum and there was always too much lost ground for the batsmen to make up. Sarwan and Pollard startd the final over needing 28 but managed only 12.
The victory put Sri Lanka on top of Group C, the toughest pool in the preliminary round.