The victor and the vanquished were graceful in equal measure after Sri Lanka’s convincing nine-wicket win over West Indies at the Pallekele International Cricket Ground. Sri Lanka, who now have two wins from as many matches in the Super Eights, are still not sure of a place in the semifinals. In contrast, the West Indies face yet another must-win match, against New Zealand, on Monday, but even winning that game does not guarantee them progress.
“Credit should go to the bowlers. We had a good game plan. We knew we had to bowl nice and straight. If they wanted to hit, good luck to them, but if they didn’t connect we were in business,” said Mahela Jayawardene, who was the Man of the Match for his unbeaten 65. “We varied the pace and (Nuwan) Kulasekara was the pick of the bowlers. We bowled right to them. I didn’t have to use Lasith that much and everything worked for me. If we stick to our game plans things should work for us.”
Darren Sammy, for his part, did not complain about the dry pitch that got progressively more so by the end of the day. “Oh yes, the pitch did suit Sri Lanka. But we’re playing international cricket and when we’re in Sri Lanka we expect the pitches to turn,” said Sammy. “It’s nothing new to us. I just think we didn’t adapt quickly enough. Even though we normally have a lot of dot balls, we make up in boundaries. That didn’t happen. And we only had one partnership over 50.”
Jayawardene, who did not appear to be in the best of form, nevertheless got the job done, and revealed that he had to evolve as a batsman to match the demands of the shortest format. “When Twenty20 came around I had to push myself with my limitations. I had to make sure that I had to be a bit more innovative. I don’t have the power of a Chris Gayle or a Kieron Pollard,” said Jayawardene. “For me it’s all about hitting gaps. When I want to hit I can hit. Not 100 metres, maybe, but 70 or 75 meters. It just helps me opening the batting as I have more time to work.”
Jayawardene also said that it was relatively easier to handle Sunil Narine because the target Sri Lanka were chasing wasn’t particularly demanding. “The bigger picture was that we were chasing 130. We had a good start and we didn’t have to take unnecessary risks against Sunil. So we just milked runs off him. He had a defensive field,” said Jayawardene. “We didn’t have to take unnecessary risks. We played him according to the situation. I have played him in the IPL, and can pick him, but even when you pick him the challenge is to play him well. He is a very good bowler. Kumar (Sangakkara) probably played him for the first time. I thought he batted well against him.”