In what turned out to be a humdinger, with the fortunes of both sides swinging back and forth, Sri Lanka held their nerve to clinch the final ODI of the series against the West Indies in Pallekele to clean-sweep the rubber 3-0. The visitors finished with 301 for 9 in pursuit of 308.
When the West Indies captain, Kieron Pollard, fell in the 46th over, the visitors still needed 55 off just 28 balls. At that juncture, the hosts seemed to be in control of the game. However, Fabian Allen (37 off 15) gave the home side a few jitters by cracking a string of shots. The all-rounder showcased his pyrotechnics by tonking Isuru Udana for a four and a six in the 47th over. In the very next over, he once again gave a glimpse of his power by thrashing Angelo Mathews over long-on.
Despite losing Hayden Walsh and Roston Chase in the penultimate over, Allen continued to deal in boundaries and sixes by collecting one more six off Thisara Perera. The visitors needed 13 off the last over. Allen started on the right note by slapping Mathews through the extra cover region for a boundary. The experienced all rounder though had the last laugh, as Allen smashed the very next delivery to the fielder stationed at midwicket. Mathews then used slower deliveries to ensure the last pair of Alzarri Joseph and Sheldon Cottrell wouldn’t propel their side past the finishing line. Mathews also returned impressive figures of 4 for 59.
Even before Allen put up an impressive exhibition of power-hitting, there were enough twists and turns through the course of the game. At the top of the order, Shai Hope continued his excellent run in Asia in ODIs with a well-measured 72 while Sunil Ambris cracked a run-a-ball 60. Ambris also took on Lakshan Sandakan with eye-catching shots to put the pressure right back on Sri Lanka’s spinners. However, Hasaranga pegged West Indies back by castling Ambris.
Nicholas Pooran and Hope then kept the scorecard ticking with a partnership of 60 for the second wicket. At 171 for 1 in the 31st over, West Indies seemed to be in the ascendancy. At that stage, Udana outfoxed Hope with the slower one to lift Sri Lanka. Hasaranga and Co. then put the lid on the scoring rate as the required run-rate started to climb. In an attempt to up the ante, Pooran also fell to Mathews.
Pollard, however, kept the West Indies in the game by crunching a six and a four off Udana in the 43rd over. In the next over, he lost Dwayne Bravo, with the southpaw getting run-out. Incidentally, there was a bit of controversy with Sri Lanka wanting to take the review against Pollard for an LBW. On his part, the West Indies captain complained to the on-field umpires about the timer having run out but to no avail. Subsequently, the impact was a marginal call and Pollard survived. So, Sri Lanka had to be satisfied with Bravo’s wicket.
Just that the hosts didn’t have to wait for long to see the back of Pollard, as Mathews soon removed the West Indies skipper. Pollard’s dismissal only brought Allen to the crease who almost snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Earlier, a slew of useful contributions from the batsmen helped Sri Lanka post a substantial total. After the hosts opted to bat, Avishka Fernando and Dimuth Karunaratne (44) provided Sri Lanka with a breezy start. However, against the run of play, the opener was dismissed via a strangle down the leg-side off Alzarri Joseph. Roston Chase then dismissed Karunaratne, with the Sri Lanka captain pushing one back to the bowler.
The two Kusals – Mendis (55) and Perera (44) – then joined forces to put Sri Lanka on course for a massive total. At 177/2, the pair looked set to convert their starts into big scores. Just that Pollard used quite a few off-cutters to trouble Perera and also dislodged the left-hander in the 32nd over with another of his cutters. Joseph then followed up his captain’s efforts by removing Mendis with a well-directed short ball.
At 185 for 4, the visitors would have hoped to make further inroads to restrict Sri Lanka to some extent. Unfortunately for the West Indies, Dhananjaya de Silva (51) and Thisara kept the scorecard ticking with an alliance of 64 for the sixth wicket. Once Dhanajaya was dismissed, Thisara and Hasaraga took over to pilot Sri Lanka past the 300-run mark.
Brief scores: Sri Lanka 307/9 in 50 overs (Kusal Mendis 55, Dhananjaya de Silva 51; Alzarri Joseph 4-65) beat West Indies 301/9 in 50 overs (Shai Hope 72, Sunil Ambris 60; Angelo Mathews 4-59) by six runs.