Nothing is perfect in life they say. In Cricket, high-scoring thrillers are a treat to watch. So, Sri Lanka’s nail-biting win over West Indies was the perfect game, isn’t it? Almost.
After a horrid World Cup campaign, which blew up their chances of qualifying for the semi-finals, the Sri Lankan batting unit finally came good, as 21-year old Avishka Fernando smashed the island nation’s first century in the tournament. In doing so, Fernando also became the youngest Sri Lankan to score a hundred in World Cups. Before this game, Sri Lanka had not crossed even 250 and had failed to bat out the 50 overs in multiple games. But, against the Windies, they posted 338 for 6 in 50 overs. The perfect batting performance isn’t it? Almost.
Fernando’s century represents hope for the future. Sri Lanka has no dearth in talent. They just need to be managed properly and invested in carefully. Come the next World Cup in 2023, if all goes well, Fernando will be 25 years old, and should have at least 100 ODIs under his belt. But, Sri Lanka Cricket isn’t reliable enough to be able to execute things that way. Former Sri Lanka Captain Kumar Sangakkara shared his thoughts on that, “They come in, they impress, they score a brilliant hundred like he (Avishka) does. But come 6 months later, a couple of failures and all that trust and admiration is gone from the selectors and they just take you out from the side.” He said during commentary. Perfectly articulated isn’t it? Almost.
Fernando’s glorious pulls are already being compared to those of the greatest batsman Sri Lanka ever produced, Aravinda De Silva’s. No one can match De Silva’s class but Fernando’s back-foot stroke-play is extraordinary, which is going to be his strength in the future. The two sixes Fernando struck were hit towards the longest boundary in the ground. The first one travelled 83 meters, while the second six was the longest – 91 meters. Fernando took Cottrell to the cleaners just like De Silva smashed Brett Lee in the 2003 World Cup. Perfect comparison isn’t it? Almost.
Kusal Perera plays shots like Sanath Jayasuriya. He has made three fifties this tournament and is currently the second highest-run scorer amongst wicket-keepers in the World Cup. His Durban magic will never be forgotten but his conversion rate should be improved, especially in limited-overs cricket. His 64 set the platform for Sri Lanka before he ran himself out with a century in sight. The perfect opening batsman isn’t he? Almost.
Lahiru Thirimanne, called back into the team, batting at number six to strengthen the struggling middle-order. However, he was required to do a different job with around 10 overs left. He struck at 136 – the highest amongst Sri Lankans, despite having a career-strike rate of 71. Thirimanne might not be a crowd-puller or a consistent performer for Sri Lanka. But today he did his job. The perfect finisher isn’t he? Almost.
Sri Lanka’s so-called main wrist spinner in the squad, Jeffrey Vandersay, after warming the bench for seven games, finally got his opportunity. He looked absolutely amateurish and rusty, bowling all over the wicket. With four wickets down and the Windies looking to rebuild through Nicholas Pooran and Jason Holder, Vandersay had plenty of overs to settle down and bowl himself into a rhythm, but he never did, despite taking the wicket of Holder. Perfect mishap in selection isn’t it? Almost.
A man who hasn’t bowled in for 561 days in ODI cricket, Angelo Mathews came onto bowl the 48th and 50th overs with captain Dimuth Karunaratne having no one to turn to since his fifth bowler Vandersay was struggling. With 31 runs needed off the final 3 overs, Mathews swung the game back towards Sri Lanka by taking out the centurion Pooran with his very first ball. Perfect sixth bowling option isn’t he? Almost.
There aren’t many days where you can say that Sri Lanka fielded better than their opponents. Despite at least four dropped catches, Sri Lanka’s ground-fielding and three run-outs were decisive towards the final result. Sri Lanka will never be happy with those missed opportunities but the Windies fielding was even worse. They gave away at least 25 extra runs due to their bad fielding. Perfect time to have a bad day in the field wasn’t it? Almost.
With two teams who are already out of the World Cup playing on a Monday, there was a decent crowd at the grounds. Several high-profile names including pop star Rihanna were amongst the crowd. Both teams gave the fans their monies worth and turned the dead-rubber into a thriller. Perfect match wasn’t it? Almost.