It was almost a perfect game for West Indies at Sabina Park in Kingston on Friday, barring minor stumbles at either end of the match, as they outclassed Sri Lanka in the opening encounter of the Celkon Mobile Cup Tri series.
As the cliché goes, everybody played their part in the win; the bowlers took wickets and restricted the opposition and the batsmen chased it down without much fuss.
Dwayne Bravo, the West Indies captain, thought his side played as good a game as any, with almost everything going to plan. “(Sri Lanka) got off to a decent start but taking wickets was going to slow down their momentum and that was the game plan. Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach and Sunil Narine set the tone for us,” he said.
“I had them bowling in short spells as it was very humid, and bowling Sri Lanka out for 208 was a fantastic effort by the bowling group.” He added that Darren Sammy’s contribution in restricting the scoring rate shouldn’t be forgotten either.
Angelo Mathews, Bravo’s Sri Lankan counterpart, felt it was an important toss he lost because, as he had said at the time, he would have inserted the opposition in as well. “It was a two-paced wicket and was holding up a bit but got easier (later on). We had to adapt to the wicket but we lost wickets and could not get going, Mahela (Jayawardene) batted brilliantly but he had no partners,” said Mathews.
Once Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, the most experienced players in the Sri Lankan side, were dismissed, it exposed the soft, inexperienced underbelly of the team. Even as Mathews was digging in, Lahiru Thirimanne and Dinesh Chandimal fell to ambitious shots when the need of the hour was to cut down the risks and give Mathews a hand. Bravo said,
“We knew one of their best batters (Jayawardene) is batting at the top of the order and the next best, Sangakkara, is batting at three. We wanted to dismiss them as quickly as possible and expose their lower and middle order, which is not as experienced”.
It was almost a year since Chris Gayle last scored an ODI century. That was against New Zealand also at Sabina Park on July 7 last year when he made a match-winning 125. Gayle averaged just 15 in the 14 innings since then with 39 being his best effort, till he broke out of the slump by carting the Sri Lankan bowlers for 109 runs to set up and easy win for West Indies.
Bravo was delighted to see his marquee batsman strike form in the first match of the tournament itself. “Chris is our best player and I’m always happy to see him get runs,” he said. “I know it’s been a while (since he got an ODI hundred), but he has been getting starts. On the back of his mind, he knew that he wasn’t making the big runs for us and he knows how important he is for us. I was very happy to see him get this hundred and see him bat very deep into the innings. That can only be good for the West Indies.”
Even with Gayle knowing that he wasn’t making big runs, Bravo and the team management did not put any additional pressure on him. “We told him that we back him 100% and want to keep him as calm and relaxed as possible. He’s been here and done this for many years and has over 8000 runs. I wasn’t surprised he came good today,” explained Bravo.
For West Indies, an in-form Gayle and an all-round bowling attack sets the table up perfectly for their upcoming match against India on Sunday at the same venue. With the belief gained from this thoroughly convincing win, Bravo believes another outing where his players give their best should make for a cracker of a game.