The Queens Sports Club has witnessed a tie, and a one-run defeat, but still no cigar for West Indies. For the second time in two matches, they went into the final over of a chase with a chance to win. But yet again, they fell just short. Captain Jason Holder put their shortcoming against Sri Lanka on Wednesday down to the relative greenness of this squad.
"I think it's inexperience," Holder said. "There's obviously situations that we're not accustomed to being in. We're still a relatively young side. Everybody's trying to make their mark. And I think it boils down to inexperience, and having that know-how at the end to get us across the line. We had set up the game nicely, and Evin Lewis played an exceptional knock to put us in the situation that we were in."
Lewis, playing in just his fourth ODI, brought up a maiden fifty in the 12th over, and then reached a 91-ball century, with 12 fours and a six, to leave West Indies well placed at 177 for 3. This was the first time he had opened on the tour, and it seemed to have paid off.
"He's one of those guys that likes the ball coming on, so we just felt that with 330 on the board we needed to get off well in the Powerplay and make use of that first up," Holder explained. "Him and Johnson Charles did a great job there and put the Sri Lankan bowlers under pressure, capitalising on every bad ball that was bowled."
He wasn't done there, opening up to smite three more sixes as wickets fell around him, and he reached 148 (second only to Chris Gayle's 153 not out for the highest ODI score by a West Indian in Zimbabwe), battling cramps in the latter stages of his innings. "He was there out in the field for 50 overs fielding, and then came back to bat through most of the overs," Holder said. "It was a bit of cramp, and I don't think it was anything too serious."
Lewis was eventually run-out after a horrible mix-up with his captain. It was the third run-out of the innings, and left West Indies needing 69 off 57. In the company of Carlos Brathwaite, Holder took the game into the last three overs with his side still within touching distance of the asking rate. With 10 needed from the final over, Holder could only manage a single off the first ball to put No. 10 Sulieman Benn on strike. Holder would not see the strike again until the final ball, when three were needed but a pinpoint, 144kph yorker from Nuwan Pradeep secured Sri Lanka's win.
"I was just trying to get on strike, but credit must also be given to the Sri Lankan bowlers," Holder said. "I thought they hit their yorkers really well, and the ball was also tailing in to the right-hander. Benn did a tremendous job to hit the six that he did, to bring the game back closer, but unfortunately he got out afterwards. The last ball was a very good ball."
The defeat means West Indies face a must-win game against Zimbabwe on Friday if they are to reach the final. They may have to play that game without their opening bowler, after discomfort in his hamstring meant Shannon Gabriel could only bowl five overs today.
"We're managing some niggles, and Shannon wasn't able to finish his overs today, so we're waiting to see if he's good to go for the next game," Holder said. "We'll see in the next few days."
Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town