HOPES IN BALANCE
Loss to Sri Lanka dents WI T20 chances
West Indies went down without so much as a whimper, losing to Sri Lanka by nine wickets yesterday to leave their semi-final chances in the World Twenty20 Championship hanging in the balance.
Opting to bat first at the Pallekele International Stadium, the Caribbean side were restricted to an inadequate 129 for five off their 20 overs.
Elegant stroke-maker Marlon Samuels top-scored with an enterprising even 50 from 35 balls while all-rounder Dwayne Bravo hammered a breezy 34-ball 40.
Mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis strangled the powerful line up, claiming two for 12 from four stingy overs.
Captain Mahela Jayawardene then exuded class as he powered his way to a typically stylish unbeaten 65 from 49 balls, to spearhead Sri Lanka's successful run chase.
Left-hander Kumar Sangakkara, no less attractive, compiled a measured unbeaten 39 off 34 balls, as the hosts all but booked their spot in the final four of the tournament.
West Indies, meanwhile, have slipped to third in their Super Eight group behind leaders Sri Lanka and England, who beat New Zealand by six wickets in the day's other contest.
They face New Zealand in their final match tomorrow.
The Windies were always up against it once they lost their talisman Chris Gayle cheaply, caught behind off seamer Nuwan Kulasekara in the sixth over of the innings with just 16 runs on the board.
Subdued for nine balls, the powerful left-hander chased one that moved to depart for two.
Only three balls earlier, rookie opener Johnson Charles (12) – one of the architects of the Windies win over England on Thursday – charged Mendis and missed, allowing Sangakkara to complete an easy stumping.
Samuels and Bravo then set about the repair job, putting on 65 off 56 balls for the third wicket.
Both batsmen counted four fours and two sixes as they carefully navigated the Sri Lankan varied attack.
Bravo got off the mark with a punched drive down the ground off Kulasekara and Samuels joined the party next over, taking two consecutive boundaries off seamer Angelo Matthews.
But for all their enterprise, they still struggled to up the tempo against a disciplined attack, and the Windies were stuttering along at just under six an over, at 80 for two after 14 overs.
Bravo chanced his arm next over and holed out to long on off leg-spinner Jeevan Mendis at 81 for three and the big-hitting Kieron Pollard never got going, bowled by a full length delivery from Ajantha Mendis in the next over for one, to leave the Windies in dire straits.
Exciting hitter Andre Russell then pummelled an unbeaten 19 off 14 balls with one six – a straight hit off Kulasekara – in an over that cost 21 after Samuels helped himself to another six and two fours.
Disappointingly, however, the last two overs yielded just 10 runs and served up Samuels' wicket, as the Jamaican skied Matthews to square leg.
When pacer Ravi Rampaul plucked out Tillakaratne Dilshan for 13 with the score on 22 in the third over, the Windies entertained thoughts of successfully defending their small total.
Jayawardene and Sangakkara, the two most experienced batsmen in the Sri Lanka side, swiftly put paid to these hopes, however, with a brilliant unbroken stand of 108.
The right-handed Jayawardene counted 10 fours and a six – a clean hit over deep mid-wicket off captain and medium pacer Darren Sammy – while Sangakkara rattled off five fours.
Such was their dominance, Sri Lanka reached their target with time, effort and 28 balls to spare.
Today's matches: (Group 2)
Australia vs South Africa, Colombo
India vs Pakistan, Colombo