West Indies 127 for 3 (Fletcher 84*, Siriwardana 2-33) beat Sri Lanka 122 for 9 (Thisara 40, Badree 3-12) by seven wickets.
Samuel Badree sticks out in this West Indies team. He has a neat little side parting. He does not have rippling muscles. He celebrates a wicket almost out of courtesy. And all of his wickets tonight in Bangalore came as a result of his inviting the batsmen to make a mistake. Sri Lanka rsvp-ed like crazy. Badree’s 3 for 12 laid the foundation to a comfortable victory over the defending champions.
Much of Badree’s success comes from his accuracy. So it was almost surprising to see him bowl one wide at the new batsman Lahiru Thirimanne, until Thirimanne sliced it straight to point. Chamara Kapugedera raced down the pitch too early and Badree had him stumped. Three balls later, Milinda Siriwardana nicked a googly to slip. Those were the wickets to his name. In the fifth over, Badree strung three dot balls on the trot to lead Dinesh Chandimal into running himself out.
Badree finished his spell in the 10th over and Sri Lanka were 49 for 5 with very little hope of recovery. They only barely avoided getting bowled out, and their 122 for 9 was expertly run down by a man playing his first T20I in three months – Andre Fletcher. He stepped in for an injured Chris Gayle to open the innings, struck an unbeaten 84 off 64 balls and was out in the middle when the winning run was scored.
West Indies may be tussling with their board, their Test team’s reputation may be in the doldrums but the shortest format always brings the best out of them. Fletcher, for example, had a T20I average of 19 before today. But he had improved his reputation via the Caribbean Premier League. He was the second-highest run-scorer in the 2015 edition, behind only his mentor Gayle.
“Confidence on the field looks high,” tweeted former West Indian captain Brian Lara as the current captain Darren Sammy broke into jigs while his men celebrated each wicket with gusto. The high-fives could have poked someone’s eye out.
But Angelo Mathews’ inexperienced team were at the opposite end of the spectrum. They were worried about far too many things, the reputation of a big-hitting West Indian line-up, for example.
Chandimal hit straight to cover and ran because he was off put by the 11 dots he consumed. Thirimanne was facing his first ball of spin and he committed to a loft without realising Badree had tossed it too far wide to be timed properly. Kapugedera was promoted to pinch hit and came back with 6 off 10 balls.
All that chaos was exploited by Badree, who read a set of nervous batsmen perfectly. Siriwardana was another Sri Lanka batsman itching to hit the ball, but Badree kept feeding him wrong ‘uns that kept turning past the bat and after two hard-handed pokes that missed the ball, the third fell into the lap of the Gayle at first slip. Badree later dedicated his performance to his two daughters, who “I haven’t seen for the better part of two months.”
Thisara Perera would have hoped his 40 off 29 balls rescued Sri Lanka, but his fluency only went on to demonstrate how the rest of the line-up simply did not stand up when they needed to.
Most would have expected turning pitches in the subcontinent, but perhaps the format – Twenty20s – and the showpiece event of said format – may have tempted people into hoping for batting-friendly surfaces. The M Chinnaswamy crowd has seen many a batathon through eight seasons of the IPL, but on Sunday, they had to contend themselves to a low-scoring match on a pitch that gave the spinners a lot of assistance. Not quite to the levels of Nagpur, though. It was just enough to keep the contest even and exciting.
Jeffrey Vandersay, who arrived in the country only on the eve of the match, bowled a fine spell to finish with 1 for 11 off his four overs. For a 26-year old, he coped under the glare of the World T20 excellently and for a young wristspinner, his control was excellent. Rangana Herath was tidy and Siriwardana took his two wickets by deceiving Marlon Samuels and Denesh Ramdin in flight.
But as well as the spinners bowled, Sri Lanka had too little on the board and they hurt themselves with a couple of dropped chances. Opener Johnson Charles was given a life when Kapugedera failed to hold on to a dolly at deep midwicket and Andre Russell was shelled by Nuwan Kulasekara in the 18th over.
There were other things that went against Sri Lanka too. Their in-form batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan was adjudged lbw by umpire Johan Cloete when the ball seemed to be heading down leg. Siriwardana then fell on the wrong side of an lbw shout with umpire Aleem Dar. And the third umpire Simon Fry might well have let Fletcher off when he was on 71 after a catch behind the stumps was reviewed. The ball was dying on Chandimal even as he dived forward to try and get his gloves underneath. Multiple camera angles, lots of zooming in and several slow-motion replays only seemed to confuse the issue. The on-field call was out, but Fry overruled it.
Gayle, who strained his left hamstring while fielding, had been ready to come out to bat at that time, but he was kept to loitering around in his full gear as West Indies cantered to victory without him to further establish their standing as a T20 powerhouse.