Friday, 28 January 2022

Avishka Fernando excels in Sri Lanka World Cup win

DURHAM: Avishka Fernando’s first international century overshadowed fellow young star Nicholas Pooran’s as Sri Lanka edged a thrilling ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup clash with West Indies by 23 runs.

The 21-year-old Fernando, one of the tournament’s revelations, went one better than cameos against England and Sri Lanka by crossing the three-figure threshold for the first time as Sri Lanka posted an imposing 338/6. Pooran ensured the West Indies gave Bajan R&B sensation Rihanna, watching from the stands, plenty to cheer in response, offering hope of a famous West Indies win by also reaching his maiden hundred. But, having helped his side rally from 199/6 in an 83-run stand with Fabian Allen, his 118 couldn’t see the Windies over the line as they ended on 315/9.

Sri Lanka began like a side who had heeded the lessons of Friday’s loss to South Africa on the same ground, Kusal Perera taking the attack to the Windies bowlers with a series of shots over the infield. West Indies broke through when Dimuth Karunaratne feathered Jason Holder behind, but that merely heralded Fernando’s arrival. His task, especially after Perera (64) was run out having contemplated attempting an ill-judged second, was to rebuild.

He did so with typical panache, evidenced by his first boundary being lofted over mid-on, but also illustrated some exceptional running. The upshot was a beautiful 103-ball 104, featuring nine fours and two sixes off Sheldon Cottrell pulled high over midwicket, that propelled Sri Lanka to a daunting total.

The Windies’ hopes were immediately undermined by the ageless Lasith Malinga, who had Sunil Ambris caught behind and bowled Shai Hope via an inside-edge. Chris Gayle briefly flickered with two maximums in his 35, but skied a catch to short third-man off Kasun Rajitha before Shimron Hetmyer was run out to leave the score at 84/4.

Pooran delivered a fine riposte, illustrating similar class to Fernando with strokeplay that belied his years. But, with Jason Holder hitting Jeffrey Vandersay straight to mid-on for 26 and Carlos Brathwaite run out at the non-striker’s end after Isuru Udana touched his partner’s drive, was struggling for support.

Allen (51) was on hand to deliver where his teammates failed, showing outstanding power to hit a 30-ball half-century – only to be run out following a terrible mix-up with Pooran. The latter subsequently brought up his century, from 92 balls, but it proved in vain as Angelo Mathews, bowling his first ODI delivery since December 2017, induced a nick behind to put paid to Windies’ hopes.

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