The rankings indeed do not matter when it comes to the shortest format of the game. And it is almost inexplicable to think of West Indies being ranked at tenth in the ICC T20I team rankings with a side tailormade for the compressed version. On Wednesday at the Pallekele, the Caribbeans proved why they are amongst the favourites to win their second consecutive T20 title later this year by fine-tuning their preparations for the same.
Evin Lewis’ absence at the top didn’t make much of a difference as the duo of Lendl Simmons and Brandon King kept the momentum on their side with 58 runs in the powerplay. Amid Simmons’ unbeaten half-century, the likes of Nicholas Pooran, Andre Russell, and Kieron Pollard ensured the tourists finished the innings they began strongly. It didn’t seem like the Caribbeans would set the hosts a daunting 197 to chase; however, with potent T20 stars like Russell and Pollard in their repertoire, it hands them the security to comfortably make up for the lost overs.
And yet, the show lead by Oshane Thomas with the ball awaited in the wings. Thomas, who’s tragic motor accident began sending shockwaves around the cricketing fraternity, wrecked Sri Lanka’s batting line-up by picking up the first five scalps. His colleagues in Sheldon Cottrell, Dwayne Bravo, and Rovman Powell also chipped in with timely strikes to ensure that the home side fell 25 runs short of the target. The visitors will look to seal the series following their comprehensive defeat in ODIs, but still have room for improvement with their bowling.
The tourists took the Sri Lankan bowlers to the cleaners with none of their bowlers going for less than eight per over. After a breezy powerplay, the hosts pulled things back in the middle before conceding a staggering 70 runs in the final five. Lasith Malinga, who went for only 20 in his first three overs gave away 17 in his last as he missed his length multiple times against Pollard.
Apart from Kusal Perera, not one batsman amongst the top six could withstand the short-pitched and pacy stuff from Thomas. And during his partnership of 87 with Wanindu Hasaranga, Sri Lanka began to dream of the inconceivable.
It may have been in a losing cause; however, Malinga’s hope of the team playing fearless cricket took shape. By coming only 25 runs short in a chase of nearly 200 despite losing five wickets inside powerplay, Sri Lanka can be optimistic about drawing level.
Sri Lanka may give the nod to Lahiru Kumara in place of Isuru Udana, who conceded 41 runs in three overs for one wicket. The batting line-up could remain the same for the second T20I despite a horror show. The hosts can give Shehan Jayasuriya a go with the ball and hope that his finger spin yields something out of nothing. Additionally, Angelo Mathews needs to bat higher than number five.
Probable XI: Avishka Fernando, Kusal Perera(wk), Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Shehan Jayasuriya, Dasun Shanaka, Thisara Perera, Wanindu Hasaranga, Isuru Udana/Lahiru Kumara, Lasith Malinga(c), Lakshan Sandakan
There is next to no reason why the visitors must tinker with their line-up. They bat extremely deep in addition to boasting a wealth of partnership breakers with the ball. Hence, they seem on track to bag the T20 trophy with the current line-up.
Probable XI: Lendl Simmons, Brandon King, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran(wk), Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard(c), Andre Russell, Rovman Powell, Fabian Allen, Oshane Thomas, Sheldon Cottrell
Focus will be on:
Kusal Perera (Sri Lanka):
Perera nearly stole the victory out of West Indies’ pocket with his innings of 66 from 38 deliveries when Sri Lanka looked at sea. His stand of 87 with Hasaranga kept them well within sights before Powell broke their partnership by sending him back for 44. Yet, Perera’s presence held them together before Russell’s perfect yorker had his number.
It was the sort of innings that appeared as the repeat telecast of Durban 2019 in which he was the only one fighting. But on this occasion, he went down battling without being able to take them over the finish line. Nevertheless, if he can carry his form to the second T20I, the home side has a chance to level the series. However, he also needs more than one top-order batsman to stick with him.
Lendl Simmons (West Indies):
Let’s face it, Simmons’ unbeaten knock of 67 off 51 balls was as crucial as the fireworks of Pollard and Russell in Kandy. However, despite playing 51 deliveries while opening the innings, Simmons could only make 67 and couldn’t raise the ante up. It became a case of West Indies ending up with a below-par score if not for the finishing touch applied by Pollard and Russell. Hence, the Trinidad batsman needs to get calculative and at the same time, must realize the requirement to take risks on time.
Head to Head:
Played – 10 | Won by Sri Lanka – 6 | Won by West Indies – 4
If West Indies win the second T20, it would be their first T20I series victory since 2018-19. Their last series win in the shortest format was against Bangladesh.
4 – Dwayne Bravo needs four wickets to complete 500 T20 wickets.
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Match timings – 7:00 pm IST, 7:00 pm local
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