Fernando, Mendis tons lead Sri Lanka to series win

Thursday, 27 February 2020 00:30 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Kusal Mendis and Avishka Fernando celebrate during their innings in the second one day international (ODI) cricket match between Sri Lanka and West Indies at the Suriyawewa Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium yesterday – AFP

Wanindu Hasaranga (L) celebrates after he dismissed West Indies Kieron Pollard during the second one day international (ODI) cricket match between Sri Lanka and West Indies in Hambantota - AFP

 Lakshan Sandakan (C) celebrates with Captain Dimuth Karunaratne after dismissing West Indies Nicholas Pooran during the second one day international (ODI) cricket match between Sri Lanka and West Indies in Hambantota – AFP 

By Madushka Balasuriya 

After twin centuries by Avishka Fernando and Kusal Mendis set Sri Lanka up for a mammoth 345/8, wrist spinners Wanindu Hasaranga and Lakshan Sandakan strangled the West Indian chase, as Sri Lanka registered a 161-run win in the 2nd ODI in Hambantota. With it, Sri Lanka secure the three-match series 2-0, and extend West Indies’ losing streak against them to seven games.

Sri Lanka have over recent years struggled to pick up wickets through the middle overs, but it certainly wasn’t the case last evening, as the pair of Hasaranga and Sandakan bamboozled their way through the West Indian batting line-up with three wickets apiece, ending with figures of 3 for 30 and 3 for 57 respectively. 

Hasaranga in particular would have enjoyed his scalps, each coming courtesy of a googly, as none on the West Indian batsmen seemed able to read him. Darren Bravo was his first victim, looking to work the ball on the leg side only for it to catch the outside edge through to Dhananjaya, who completed a fine reflex take at slip. The next two were the quintessential spinners’ dismissals, as both Kieron Pollard and Jason Holder played down the wrong line, the wrong ’un spinning through gap between bat and pad to rattle the stumps.

For the West Indies, only Shai Hope had managed to get past fifty, as he and Sunil Ambris gave the visitors a steady start in chasing down what would have been the highest ever successful chase in Hambantota. 

The pair had put on 64 in a little over 12 overs before Hope gifted the Lankans the opening breakthrough. Calling Ambris through for a quick single, Hope soon realised that Mathews had made an excellent diving intervention at short midwicket. By the time Hope decided to send Ambris back, the latter was already two thirds down the track with no chance of making it back safely.

Mathews would then get into the action with the ball a few overs later, this time getting Hope himself, the West Indian opener playing too early on a ball that held up on the pitch, and offering an easy take at short 


Hasaranga and Sandakan would then take over proceedings, as the former dismissed Bravo before Sandakan got into the act to bowl Roston Chase through the proverbial gate - the batsman playing all around one that pitched on off stump and spun back in. Sandakan would later take out Nicholas Pooran, courtesy of an athletic catch from a rejuvenated Angelo Mathews at midwicket, before returning at the tail end of the game for his third and final wicket - Fabian Allen holing out at long-on - to wrap up the match for Sri Lanka.

Earlier, Sheldon Cottrell had rocked Sri Lanka at the start of the game, taking out both Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Perera off consecutive deliveries in the just the third over of the match, to leave the home side reeling at 9/2.

Both wickets were a result of Cottrell swinging the ball away from the left-handers; Karunaratne slashing a catch straight to point, and then Perera nicking a wide one through to the keeper straight after. And it might have been worse for Sri Lanka, if only Pollard had held on to a straightforward chance at slip off Holder; Mendis, who would go on to score a run-a-ball 119, was on two at the time. 

Cottrell would go on to achieve figures of 4 for 67 and he along with Alzari Joseph who had figures of 3 for 57, would be the standout performers in an otherwise lacklustre performance in the field from the West Indies.

Mendis and Fernando heed Arthur’s rallying call

For Sri Lankan coach Mickey Arthur, the satisfaction at seeing his spinners pick up those prized middle-over scalps would only have been trumped by the performances of Fernando and Mendis.

Prior to the game, Arthur had called on his top order to take more responsibility in terms of run scoring, asking them to convert starts into big totals. And it was two of the youngest members of the team that seemingly took these words to heart, after two of the more senior statesman had lost their wickets cheaply.

The pair of Mendis and Fernando would go on to put on 239 for the third wicket off just 227 deliveries - the highest-ever third wicket partnership for Sri Lanka, third highest partnership ever by a Sri Lankan pair, the fourth highest partnership ever for the third wicket. 

But this brisk run rate belied the maturity behind the actual run scoring. For starters, only 84 of those runs actually came in boundaries. Instead a majority of the scoring was a result of urgency between the wickets, as the pair utilised the exceptionally long boundaries in Hambantota to turn over the strike frequently, stealing two’s and three’s.

This progressive running was then supplemented by generally risk-free stroke play - aided by some wayward West Indian bowling. On a flat deck, time and again Mendis and Fernando took turns dispatching short balls from the quicks to the leg side fence - both behind and in front of square. 

The spinners meanwhile were dealt with ease; Fabian Allen memorably being subjected to some sumptuous Mendis footwork, as the off spinner was smoked for back-to-back boundaries inside out over cover.

By the time both batsmen brought up their centuries, over 60% of their runs had been scored on the leg side - a clear symptom of West Indies’ lack of control with the ball. It was only at this point that the pair proceeded to offer more regular chances, as they both attempted to hit a boundary almost every delivery. 

Pollard, whose earlier drop would have been playing on his mind, was cruelly the recipient of this newfound aggression, as Mendis and Fernando combined to ransack him for 19 runs in the 40th over, inclusive of four boundaries - each to the long-off fence.

Both batsman though would be dismissed shortly after; Mendis skying an attempted slog over cow corner off Joseph, while Fernando found the man at the deep midwicket boundary - Keemo Paul completing the catch, having dropped a similar chance one 

ball prior.

However, despite the loss of those wickets, Thisara Perera’s 25-ball 36, and cameos from Dhananjaya De Silva, Wanindu Hasaranga and Isuru Udana helped Sri Lanka Sri Lanka plunder 99 runs off the final 10 overs, as the lower order ensured the platform laid by Mendis and Fernando would not go 

to waste.