Sri Lankan wicketkeeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella credited his team's seamers for holding their nerve against a big-hitting West Indian lower order after Sri Lanka pulled off a one-run win to secure their place in the final of the Zimbabwe tri-series. Dickwella was one of two Sri Lankans to reach the 90s in a total of 330 for 7 before Sri Lanka held West Indies to 329 for 9 in reply.
"Our bowlers held their nerve, and our fast bowlers did really well," Dickwella said. "Suranga [Lakmal], [Nuwan] Kulasekara and Nuwan Pradeep - they were the key players in defending this total. We were confident of defending the score, with our bowling attack. We missed some opportunities that we should have capitalized on, but fortunately we were on the winning side on the end."
Evin Lewis, the West Indies opener, survived two early lbw shouts and was also dropped twice during the first Powerplay in an uncharacteristically sloppy fielding effort by Sri Lanka. Lewis was dropped again off a tough chance at mid-on before he had reached fifty, and he went on to score a maiden hundred. He might have been run out shortly thereafter, but Dickwella disturbed the stumps with his glove before collecting the ball.
That was one of his few lapses in the field or with the bat - after his 94 in the morning he eventually ran Lewis out for 148 - to increase Sri Lanka's advantage at the death. Dickwella then held on to an awkward inside edge off Ashley Nurse's bat in the penultimate over of the match.
"It is kind of a challenge [batting up the order and keeping wicket], but you just have to adapt to the situation, and play according to that," Dickwella said. "I'm a wicketkeeper-batsman, and when I score runs when we're batting first, I still have to keep wicket for 50 overs. Obviously I have to do that, for my team."
Batting at No. 3, Dickwella was at the crease in the third over of the match and fell 36 overs later just six runs short of what would have been a maiden ODI hundred in his fifth match.
"It was a good track," he said. "Since the morning, it was a flat track. There was a bit of grass, but it was dead grass, so we didn't expect it to move a lot. We thought it would move a bit, but that didn't happen.
"It was coming on to the bat. It was a pretty easy wicket to bat on, compared to the previous games. I could have got a hundred, and scored some more runs for the team, but I'm really happy with my performance today."
Performances such as these will help Dickwella state his claim for a spot in Sri Lanka's touring party for their trip to South Africa in December. He is one of a number of fringe players who have come in to Sri Lanka's squad in the absence of injured senior players such as Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal.
"Some of the senior players back in Sri Lanka, Angelo Mathews and Chandimal, they're recovering. They've started training again. The selectors must be picking up some juniors from this tour for the big upcoming tour, so this is a good opportunity for the juniors to perform and show them that we are good, talented players. This is a good opportunity to play, perform and win even if we don't have those seniors with us."
Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town