Close West Indies 160 for 4 in 36.5 overs (Samuels 45*) beat Sri Lanka 191 all out (Jayawardene 51, Collymore 3-28)by six wickets
West Indies' recent acquired reputation for saving their best cricket for dead rubbers was enhanced further with their six-wicket wicket win against Sri Lanka in the third and final Duckworth/Lewis affected one-day international at St. Vincent. Sri Lanka, though, bagged the series 2-1.
Sri Lanka's batting, the key to their remarkable series-clinching win at Bridgetown at the weekend, struggled against a next generation West Indies pace attack. Corey Colleymore lead the way, claiming 3 for 38, as Sri Lanka were bowled out for a below-par 191 on an excellent batting strip.
West Indies, cheered on a by a capacity crowd that has become accustomed to home success on their Windward Isle (the West Indies had won 11 out their 12 matches at the venue prior to this match), started their run chase purposely, with Wavell Hinds (19) flaying a couple of back-wrenching boundaries during a 36 run opening partnership.
Sri Lanka started to claw their way back into the game when Hinds smeared a catch to mid on of (36 for 1). That brought Brian Lara (14) to the wicket, fresh from his 64 not out and magnificent 116 in Bridgetown, to renew a personal duel with Muttiah Muralitharan, who had been whisked into the attack early as Sri Lanka pressed for wickets.
But Lara ate away at Muralitharan's precious overs, playing him with care but confidence, so Marvan Atapattu tossed the ball instead to Kumar Dharmasena. Fatally, Lara relaxed. He skipped down the wicket to loft the first ball for six but perished next ball as he aimed a similar shot (54 for 2).
The runs started to dry up. Neither Gayle, who crawled along, facing 75 deliveries for his 21, and Ramaresh Sarwan were comfortable. The pressure started to mount. Eventually, Gayle was bowled around his legs after missing a lazy waft to leg (81 for 3).
But Marlon Samuels, who had earlier fielded brilliantly, pulling off two athletic run outs and one stupendous leaping catch, swaggered to the crease as storm clouds gathered around this seaside ground. He quickly reestablished West Indies' grip on the game, walloping two sixes in an over off Upul Chandana and three in all, racing to 30 off just 16 balls before rain forced the players from the field.
The break did not dampen the spirits of the crowd, or the ambitions of Samuels, the eventual man of the match, as West Indies were set a revised target (186 off 48 overs). Sarwan (25) was caught at slip of Muralitharan, but Samuels and Ricardo Powell kept ahead of the Duckworth/Lewis target before final rain interruption. The pair returned to knock off the required 10 runs after another revised target (160 in 42 overs). Samuels finished with 45 from 38 balls.
Earlier, Mahela Jayawardene had top scored, gluing the innings together after the fall of early wickets. Coming to the crease with Sri Lanka tottering on 63 for 4, he scored 51 from 74 balls before missing a full toss in the penultimate over of the innings. It was his first fifty in 18 matches and ended a wretched run with the bat that stretched back to the VB Series in Australia.
But Jayawardene's innings was not enough to wrestle back the initiative won earlier by West Indies' pace bowlers. Colleymore was the pick of them, taking 3 for 28 from his 10 overs, but there was also promising back-up from the inexperienced Jerome Taylor and Darren Powell, who were surprisingly included ahead of Mervyn Dillon and Vasbert Drakes.
Powell was energetic and steady on his comeback, and Taylor, just 18-years-old with only a handful of first-class games under his belt for Jamaica, was impressive on his first outing, generating a lively pace from a smooth run and fluid action. There was no sign of first day nerves and he settled down so well, taking 2 for 36, that his name will surely be seriously discussed for the Test series.
The pace bowlers were well supported by their part-time spinners, Ryan Hurley, Gayle and Samuels, and Sri Lanka had to graft hard for their runs. The only partnerships of note were between Jayawardene and Chandana (57 in 109 balls) for the fifth wicket and Jayawardene and Dharmasena (42 in 38 balls) for the seventh. However, the innings then fell away in the slog overs to set-up a comfortable West Indies win.