NORTH SOUND – Elegant stroke-maker Shai Hope became only the eighth West Indies batsman to score ten One-Day International hundreds when he carved out a high-quality century in his first ODI in 12 months, to power the Caribbean side to a comfortable eight victory over Sri Lanka in Antigua on Wednesday.
The polished right-hander, also featuring for West Indies for the first time in eight months, hit 110 off 133 deliveries as West Indies easily reeled in a timid target of 233 with three overs to spare at the Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium, to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
Left-hander Evin Lewis weighed in with 65 off 90 deliveries, combining with Hope in a 143-run stand – a record for the first wicket against Sri Lanka – while another left-hander Darren Bravo saw the home side over the line with an unbeaten 37 off 47 balls.
West Indies bowlers had earlier taken the last nine Sri Lankan wickets for 127 runs as the visitors slumped to 232 all out off 49 overs, following a strong start.
Openers Danushka Gunathilaka (55) and Dimuth Karunaratne (52) struck half-centuries in a stroke-filled opening stand while debutant all-rounder Ashen Bandara hit exactly 50 batting at number six but Sri Lanka lost a cluster of wickets in the middle to fall away badly.
“The way we went about our cricket [pleased me most]. The way that we batted from the second innings, the way Shai batted and just the partnerships. I thought we were in total control,” captain Kieron Pollard said afterwards.
“It showed that we planned and we came out and tried to execute.”
The contest was not without controversy, however, as left-hander Gunathilaka’s bizarre dismissal for obstruction of the field marred the innings.
In the 22nd over, Gunathilaka defended a delivery from medium-pacer Pollard with the ball dropping just beyond the batting crease.
Non-striker Pathum Nissanka (8) charged half-way down the pitch in search of a quick single but was sent back by Gunathilaka.
In an effort to regain his ground, Gunathilaka’s feet became entangled with the ball as Pollard tried to retrieve it, presumably to effect a run out at the non-striker’s end.
A clearly agitated Pollard then appealed, umpire Joel Wilson gave a ‘soft signal’ of out before television umpire Nigel Duguid upheld the decision on review, much to the astonishment of the batsman.
Gunathilaka had struck seven fours off 61 balls in a 105-run opening stand with his captain Karunaratne who also faced 61 deliveries and counted four fours.
Left-hander Karunaratne, dropped on 26 in the 12th over by fast bowler Romario Shepherd, was first to fall when he was brilliantly caught on the second attempt by Pollard, leaping high to his right on his follow through in the 20th over.
And when Gunathilaka, also missed by Shepherd in the same over on 35, followed 12 balls later, Sri Lanka lost four wickets for 21 runs and needed Bandara’s sensible knock at the back end to see them past 200.
Bandara faced 60 balls and belted four fours, adding 25 for the fifth wicket with Dinesh Chandimal (12) and 32 for the sixth wicket with Kamindu Mendis (9), before he was ninth out in the 48th over caught at mid-wicket off pacer Jason Holder (2-39).
Faced with an undemanding run chase, Hope and Lewis then put Sri Lanka to the sword in a partnership which allowed West Indies to canter.
The right-handed Hope, who contracted COVID-19 last January and missed most of the recent Regional Super50, looked fluent from the start as he punched a dozen fours and a six.
He reached his half-century off 47 balls in the 19th over by driving left-arm spinner Lakshan Sandakan through mid-off for four, and brought up three figures off 125 balls in the 41st over. He deposited a free hit from the same bowler over the ropes at long on to move to 99 before ambling a single to long on off the next delivery.
Lewis, meanwhile, clubbed four fours and two sixes before he was yorked by new ball pacer Dushmantha Chameera (2-59) in the 29th over and Hope added a further 72 for the second with Bravo before finally departing in the 43rd over, bowled off-stump also by Chameera at 215 for two.
There was little fanfare from Bravo and Jason Mohammed (13 not out) as West Indies strolled the remainder of the run chase.