ST JOHN’S, Antigua, CMC – An uncertain West Indies wobbled their way through a nervy run chase before all-rounder Fabian Allen clubbed three sixes in the penultimate over, to hand them a jittery three-wicket victory over Sri Lanka and a much desired 2-1 series win on March 7.
Faced with what should have been a straightforward target of 132 at Coolidge Cricket Ground, the home side struggled against the Asian side’s spinners for the third straight match, and needed Allen’s six-ball unbeaten 21 and Jason Holder’s cool head to get over the line with an over to spare.
The contest was still very much an open affair at the start of the 19th over with West Indies requiring 20 runs from the last 12 balls, but Allen deposited the first ball from leg-spinner Akila Dananjaya over the ropes at square leg, thrashed the third – a low full toss – over mid-wicket for another six before clearing long on with the last ball of an over which leaked 22 runs.
While pleased with the series win, head coach Phil Simmons was less than impressed with the manner in which it was achieved.
“We’ve won the series and we’ve got to take that because that’s what we’ve got to start doing from now,” Simmons said afterwards.
“The talk in the camp is that from now to the World Cup, we have to start winning series so we get that winning feeling but … this is not my kind of win.
“This is a young people’s win and I don’t like that. I like the old fellas win where we win easy.”
Not for the first time in the series, West Indies’ batting was less than stellar. Lendl Simmons top-scored with 26, Nicholas Pooran got 23 while both Evin Lewis and Allen struck 21 but West Indies never asserted themselves in the chase.
Left-arm spinner Lakshan Sandakan tantalised with three for 29 while leg-spinner Hasaranga de Silva snatched two for 13 from four superb overs, prompting praise from their captain Angelo Mathews.
“We had to try and take wickets. Obviously we can’t contain them in the 20 overs,” said the all-rounder.
“The way the three spinners bowled, they were outstanding. It’s just that we couldn’t get enough runs on the board.”
Opting to bat first, Sri Lanka lost wickets steadily to slump to 46 for four in the 10th over and needed veteran Dinesh Chandimal’s unbeaten 54 and rookie Ashen Bandara’s 44 not out, to reach 131 without further loss of their 20 overs.
Left-arm spinner Allen set the tone for the innings with the new ball when he leapt high to his right to haul in a brilliant return catch to remove opener Danushka Gunathilaka for nine in the third over with 10 runs on the board.
And off-spinner Kevin Sinclair was similarly excellent, conceding only 19 runs from his four overs and grabbing the second wicket, that of new batsman Niroshan Dickwella for four, holing out to mid-on in the next over. When Pathum Nissanka (5) and Mathews (11) also perished cheaply, Chandimal and Bandara combined in a 85-run, unbroken fifth wicket stand to see their side up to a competitive total.
The 31-year-old Chandimal faced 46 balls and struck three fours while Bandara, 22, hit three fours and two sixes in a 35-ball knock, combining to gather 49 runs from the last five overs.
In reply, Simmons and Lewis sent West Indies merrily on their way with a solid opening stand of 37 before things fell apart.
The left-handed Lewis missed a sweep at a Hasaranga googly and was lbw in the fifth over and Simmons’s wild charge at the same bowler in his next over, resulted in an easy stumping for Dickwella at 54 for two in the seventh.
Captain Kieron Pollard’s decision to promote himself to number four in the order failed to pay off as he nibbled at the third ball he faced and was caught at the wicket off lively seamer Dushmantha Chameera (2-23) without scoring.
Much then rested on the shoulders of veteran Chris Gayle but he capped off a miserable series that brought him a mere 29 runs from three innings when he missed a heave and was bowled by Sandakan for 13 in the 12th over.
Left-hander Pooran struck two sixes in posting 20 for the fifth wicket with Holder (14 not out) to ease tensions but then played down the wrong line to Chameera and was bowled in the 15th over at 95 for five.
The final twist in the game came when Sandakan knocked over Rovman Powell (7) and Dwayne Bravo (0) with consecutive balls to leave West Indies tottering further on 105 for seven in the 17th over but Allen and Holder then pulled the home side back from the brink.