West Indies seemed headed for defeat when they slumped to 199-6 but Pooran and Fabian Allen turned the game around with an 83-run stand off 58 balls for the seventh wicket setting their side up for a historic win as no team had chased a target of 339 in a World Cup before.
Kusal Perera works the ball on the leg side during his innings of 64. Despite losing Allen for an entertaining 51 off 32 balls (7 fours, 1 six), Pooran continued the run chase with Sheldon Cottrell and looked like succeeding. Sri Lanka in the meanwhile had tried out all their bowlers and with none being able to stop Pooran went to former captain Mathews who had never bowled probably even at practice.
Off his first delivery a wide one Pooran went after it and edged it to wicket-keeper Kusal Perera and Sri Lanka were once again back in business. Pooran had until that point carried West Indies hopes on his shoulder and his dismissal for a brilliant 118 off 103 balls (11 fours, 4 sixes) ended it and West Indies eventually 315-9.
It was a great game of cricket with Sri Lanka surviving the resistance of the West Indies to record their third win of the World Cup.
Already eliminated from the 2019 World Cup, Sri Lanka were given something to smile at when 21-year-old Avishka Fernando playing in only his third World Cup game announced his arrival on the big stage with a maiden ODI century that enabled the former champions to beat two-time champions West Indies.
Both teams had only pride to play for after failing to qualify for the knockout stage of the World Cup and Sri Lanka with more drive and purpose in their cricket came out on top against a dispirited West Indies team that found their task cut out once Sri Lanka had racked up their highest total of the present World Cup getting to 338-6 after being invited to bat first on a new surface.
West Indies were never in the hunt after old warrior Lasith Malinga had pushed them onto the back foot with two early wickets in his first spell of five overs. He would have also had the wickets of Chris Gayle and Shimron Hetmyer in his opening spell if Thirimanne at square leg and Mendis at slip not spilled the chances that came their way.
Barbadian singer/actress Rihanna (C/WHITE) spectates during the 2019 Cricket World Cup match between Sri Lanka and West Indies at the Riverside ground in Chester-le-Street, Durham on Monday. – AFP
Gayle however did not last long perishing for 35 to Kasun Rajitha after hitting a six off the previous ball and then skying the next one to backward point where Jeffrey Vandersay playing his first World Cup match did well to hold onto. With Gayle gone West Indies hopes of chasing down a tall target simply disappeared until Pooran and Allen came together in partnership.
Sri Lanka had the game under their control from the moment openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Perera gave them an excellent platform to launch their innings by putting together a partnership of 93 off 92 balls.
Sri Lanka’s innings was built on four half-century partnerships for after Karunaratne’s dismissal for 32 and Perera for an aggressive 64 off 51 balls (8 fours), Fernando was involved in three half-century stands which gave the innings the momentum to carry them past the 300-run mark.
Fernando added 85 for third wicket with Kusal Mendis (39), 58 for the fourth with Angelo Mathews (26) and 67 for the fifth with Lahiru Thirimanne (45 not out off 33 balls). This is what the Lankan batting lacked in their earlier matches and it was no surprise that when they came up with it they improved on their previous best total in the current World Cup of 247.
From the moment he made his World Cup debut with a sparkling 49 off 39 balls against England, Fernando had looked like a player with loads of class written all over him. His audacious strokeplay simply defined his character and brought about a refreshing change to the rickety Lankan batting that has been their downfall in the World Cup. Man of the Match Fernando raced to his maiden century at a run a ball hitting two sixes and eight fours in a delightful display of batting that spurred the other misfiring batsmen into action.
To be frank Sri Lanka capitalised on some poor West Indies bowling. Their bowlers were too full on leg stump and were unable to find the right length on a pitch that was not all pace. Shannon Gabriel who replaced Kemar Roach (unwell) was the main offender going for 46 runs off five overs.
The most impressive of West Indies’ bowlers was left-arm spinner Fabian Allen who before this game had taken only a solitary wicket for 250 runs. Kusal Mendis who finds ways of getting himself out provided Allen with his second wicket when he popped a return catch to him which he held onto quite spectacularly.