It was a day late and counted for little in the Cricket World Cup context, but as Sri Lanka fended off the West Indies by 23 runs today, there was no lack of tension.
Avishka Fernando scored 104 out of 103 balls to lead Sri Lanka to 338-6, his tournament’s largest total, and Lasith Malinga took two early wickets to reel West Indies in the fifth over of the chase at 22-2. All but finished it off, the veteran paceman’s late wicket shifted him into the top three of the most prolific bowlers in the World Cup.
West Indies, with star power support from the gigantic music star Rihanna on a blustery, mildly overcast day, made a chase of it but ran out of time and finished 315-9. The reaction of Rihanna when Chris Gayle came out for 35, heading home in disbelief summed up the overall game over feeling at 71-3.
Shimron Hetmyer was run out for 29 shortly afterward and when Carlos Brathwaite (8) got run out when bowler Isuru Udana received a fingertip to the drive of Nicholas Pooran and the ball deflected on the stumps, it seemed that the chase of West Indies was over. But when Pooran (108) and Fabian Allen (51) joined together in an 83-run, seventh-wicket stand, Barbados ‘ superstar singer was back on her feet along with the crowd.
Allen joined Pooran at 199-6 and scored 50 from 30 balls, including six and seven boundaries, on his first one-day international before becoming the third West Indian run out in the innings. He looked to the leg, chose against a run, but moved when Pooran on 99 was midway down the pitch. Allen was well short of his ground at the non-striker’s end.
With 35 balls remaining that left the West Indies at 282-7. Allen said he felt like he had to go through for the run, in the 90s he couldn’t leave Pooran stranded, and he believed it was the match’s critical moment.
Pooran posted his first ODI century, was dropped at long-off in the next over and was lastly caught behind him in chasing Angelo Mathew’s first one-day shipment since the 48th over in December 2017.
At Leeds on Thursday, the West Indies will face off against winless Afghanistan, desperate to finish with two tournament victories. On Saturday, Sri Lanka plays against India on the same ground.