Charith Asalanka
Sri Lanka’s Charith Asalanka plays a shot during the ICC Men’s Twenty20 World Cup cricket match against West Indies at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: AFP

Abu Dhabi: Common-sense approach and sticking to the basics might sound rudimentary, but the young Sri Lankans used it to good effect to outsmart defending champions West Indies and deliver a knockout punch on the stars from the Caribbean islands.

The toss is proving crucial in these conditions, but the Sri Lankans played smart cricket to nullify that effect. After being put in to bat, the Sri Lankan batters read the conditions well and utilised the big spaces to convert the singles into twos.

Their game plan was simple on a pitch that continued to get better for the batters as the game progressed. If the ball had pace, they used it to pick their gaps, while those deliveries that came slow off the pitch was tucked away for ones and twos.

Big score

Their main motto was to cut the risks and keep their wickets in tact till the end and playing most of their shots on the ground. The ploy worked wonders. After spending considerable time on the pitch, the Sri Lankan batters were able to control the game better and by shifting the gears towards the end, they could get a big score of 189 for three in 20 overs.

The West Indians did exactly the opposite. They tried to play in the air from the beginning and kept losing wickets, that did not allow them to play to a plan. The West Indian’s tried to take the aerial route, where they were successful on a few occasions, while failing miserably on many.

When Pathum Nissanka was not getting his timing, Kusal Perera went on the attack in the early overs and then Charith Asalanka continued from where he left off in the previous game to play perfect cricketing shots.

Despite Kieron Pollard making numerous bowling changes, nothing could penetrate the resolve of the Sri Lankans, who did not get swayed away by these distractions and went about the task in clinical fashion.

What is more intriguing is that, all the West Indian players play in various Twenty20 leagues across the world but were completely clueless in their chase. Nicholas Pooran and Shimron Hetmyer did that for a brief period, but when the Sri Lankan bowlers did not allow them the boundaries, Pooran again tired the aerial escape route only to lose his wicket. At the halfway mark, the difference was only 10 runs with Sri Lanka 82/1 and West Indies 72/3. The extra wickets were the decisive factor here.

The Sri Lankan team is in the rebuilding process. Asalanka, the leading scorer in the Twenty20 World Cup, is new to the Sri Lankan set up in the shortest format. The left-hander in all has played only nine Twenty20 internationals, while Nissanka has played 12.

Clinical approach

Compared to the giant West Indians, who have played hundreds of matches for the West Indies and the various franchise leagues across the world, these Sri Lankans are tiny tots. But they managed to fell the giants with their resolve and clinical approach in batting and bowling, which was well-backed up by their fielding, where they converted half chances to get the wickets.

Sri Lankan cricket was at the crossroads after the retirement of legends like Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Lasith Malinga recently. Now having finished their World Cup commitments with two wins in five matches, against Bangladesh and West Indies, the Sri Lankans have done themselves extremely proud and can leave the UAE shores with their heads held high.