Thomas, Russell and Simmons star in West Indies’ comfortable win over Sri Lanka
PALLEKELE: Life is full of unexpected shocks and surprises. A couple of weeks ago, West Indies’ fast bowler Oshane Thomas was a victim of one such unforeseen event when he had an accident in Jamaica. However, he erased the fine lines of pain and agony to not just make a comeback to the West Indies side, but also starred in the first T20I against Sri Lanka in Pallekele with a five-wicket haul on Wednesday. The sheer impact of his performance was such that Sri Lanka found themselves in dire-straits by the end of the powerplay itself. Kusal Perera (66), the opener, tried to resurrect the home team’s innings, but had too much to do, as the hosts slid to a 25-run loss. In pursuit of a sizeable target of 197, the home side needed a start of substance. However, Thomas had other ideas as he burst through the cream of the batting order. In his very first over of the innings, he showcased his ability to hit the bat hard and extract bounce by forcing Avishka Fernando to top-edge it to the wicketkeeper. He also dismissed Shehan Jayasuriya and Kusal Mendis in the same over to leave Sri Lanka three down.
Thomas then removed the experienced Angelo Mathews in the fourth over, with Andre Russell pouching a splendid catch at wide long on. Thomas continued to bowl a zestful spell and picked up his fifth wicket by castling Dasun Shanaka. Thomas struggled for control and bowled seven wides, but he showed the importance of picking up wickets in the shortest format of the game. With Sri Lanka tottering at 56 for 5, Kusal and Wanindu Hasaranga then joined forces to give the hosts some hope of finding an escape route. Kusal smacked six boundaries and three sixes in his innings while Hasaranga collected four fours to keep the scorecard ticking over. However, the visitors still seemed to be in the ascendancy with the required run-rate climbing to almost 12 runs per over.
Eventually, Hasaranga missed out on a full toss from Rovman Powell and was dismissed LBW. Initially it was not given by the on-field umpire but West Indies got it overturned through the review system. Russell then showed his value in T20 cricket by castling Kusal with a picture-perfect yorker to more or less seal the game. Powell, Sheldon Cottrell and Dwayne Bravo then provided the finishing touches. Lendl Simmons (67 not out), the opener, had anchored West Indies’ innings. Brandon King (33), Russell (35) and Pollard (34) also played vital roles. The big-hitting duo of Russell and Pollard scored their runs at a strike rate of more than 200 and that gave West Indies the required impetus to push towards a total of 200. Russell smacked as many as four sixes in his brief stay at the crease while Pollard clubbed the experienced Lasith Malinga for three boundaries in the 18th over. Meanwhile, the promising Hasaranga was the best bowler on show for the home side and finished with figures of 1 for 33 from four overs.