Fernando, Mendis, wrist-spinners set up series win

27 February 2020 05:33 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Hundreds from Avishka Fernando and Kusal Mendis, over the course of their record 239-run stand, powered Sri Lanka to a massive 345 against West Indies in the second ODI on Wednesday (February 26). Wanindu Hasaranga, whose heroics with the bat got them over the line in Colombo, then wrapped up the series with a sensational spell during which his googly left the visitors in tatters.

Thus, what had begun brightly for West Indies through Sheldon Cottrell's double-strike, turned into a bit of a hiding as they crashed towards a 161-run defeat. In between, a whole lot of things went wrong in all departments to bring about their downfall.

The first sign of things going wrong came when they were on top of the game early on having got rid of Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Perera for next to nothing. Kieron Pollard had inserted Sri Lanka into bat on one of the bounciest pitches in the country, and then had the opportunity to leave them in great strife when Mendis's outside edge presented itself at first slip. But Pollard failed to hold onto a fairly regulation chance. The significance of that moment would only reveal itself later on, but West Indies had hitherto created enough trouble with the new ball to remain upbeat.

Aside from the movement from Cottrell that played a part in foiling Karunaratne and Perera's awful shots, there was bounce that Jason Holder relished. Initially, the same couldn't have been said for Sri Lanka. Kusal Mendis got one Holder delivery that reared past his edge and smacked him on the back elbow to leave him in great agony. There were also many occurrences of the ball hitting the splice of the bat with Fernando and Mendis having to battle hard.

But having joined hands at 9/2, and having counted Pollard's blessing, the duo took the challenge head-on. They weren't always comfortable against the rising deliveries, but it didn't stop them from approaching the situation positively and signalling that intent through the pull shot, which they employed with great effectiveness to hold their ground. It was in these early exchanges that the course of the innings was to be decided, for the pitch would ease out considerably once the ball lost its hardness. And by winning (or even surviving) that battle against the West Indies troika, the Sri Lankan pair opened the floodgates for a run-fest.

The most noteworthy effect of the ball getting older was how bounce turned from adversary to ally. Holder was witness to the transformation first-hand when he returned for his second spell. Within three balls, he was spanked through point by Fernando, before being glided to the third man boundary by Mendis. The zing off the surface had gone, and it was now sitting up nicely.

As such, Fernando and Mendis rattled along for their respective fifties, keeping pace with each other right through and sensing the opportunity to take the game by the scruff of its neck. In that endeavour, they didn't allow Keemo Paul to settle in his spell, which would later bear fruit as Pollard, who looked to fill in some overs, went for plenty.

West Indies had brought in Fabian Allen for Hayden Walsh Jnr, but where the Sri Lankan wrist-spinners dominated, Allen and Roston Chase were effortlessly milked. Nothing looked as effortless as when Mendis chipped down the track for a couple of gorgeous inside-out drives to the boundary.

With the bowling hardly proving to be a challenge anymore, both of them coasted to their second ODI hundreds while their partnership entering record-breaking territory. They brought up the highest third-wicket partnership (239) for Sri Lanka ever, before hitting out to set up a death-overs surge.

While Fernando and Mendis perished in quick succession, the platform was wonderfully set. At that stage, with eight overs left, wickets weren't that detrimental so the focus was to go after everything and everyone. Thisara Perera's presence helped fuel their ambitions, as did a couple more dropped catches, as the hosts soared past 300, asking West Indies to set a new record for their highest successful ODI chase.

As it happened, it was too much to ask of them. Shai Hope continued his good form with a fifty, but it was a steady knock, not a threatening one. That realisation coupled with the burgeoning asking rate got him slogging at an Angelo Mathews delivery, only to be foxed by the lack of pace on it, toe-ending it to short midwicket. Mathews actually enjoyed an excellent night on the field, triggering Sunil Ambris's run-out with a diving stop to break the opening stand and later pulling off a diving catch towards the end.

But it was the Sri Lankan spin duo of Hasaranga and Lakshan Sandakan who were the real stars with the ball. Hasaranga's googly broke the back of West Indies' chase as he got Darren Bravo nicking off before shattering the stumps of Pollard and Holder. It was clear all three of them didn't pick the variation out of the hand at all, given the comprehensive nature of their dismissals.

If Hasaranga was the more eye-catching one, Sandakan ensured he supported him nicely as the duo went about drying the runs up leading to more wickets. At 184/8, there was a brief stoppage due to floodlight failure. Upon resumption though, Sri Lanka quickly turned the lights off on their hopes of winning a first ODI series in the country.

Brief scores: Sri Lanka 345/8 in 50 overs (Fernando 127, Mendis 119; Cottrell 4/67) beat West Indies 184 in 39.1 overs (Shai Hope 51; Wanindu Hasaranga 3/30, Lakshan Sandakan 3/57) by 161 runs

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