WI vs SL | Takeaways – Avishka Fernando scales new heights and Sri Lanka’s over-reliance on Lasith Malinga

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WI vs SL | Takeaways – Avishka Fernando scales new heights and Sri Lanka’s over-reliance on Lasith Malinga

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Suraj Choudhari

07/01/2019

Sri Lanka snatched their third win by beating the Windies in a run-fest. After Avishka Fernando’s century set the stage ablaze, West Indies replied with a fiery ton by Nicholas Pooran. Thanks to their experienced men, Sri Lanka managed to pull things back in the last three overs and pull off a win.

More heights to achieve for Avishka Fernando

When Avishka Fernando pushed the ball towards long-on for a double, he became the third youngest cricketer to have scored a century in the World Cup. Those who have followed Fernando in this competition knew that it was only a matter of time before the elegant right-handed batsman scripted history with the bat. 

In only his third game of the tournament, Fernando has gained recognition and his style of play has caught several eyes. While banking on solid technique, Fernando’s calculated aggression makes him a force to be reckoned. 

After getting two decent starts in as many games, Fernando finally managed to convert one into a substantial score. He struck at a good rate and the ton only provided impetus to Sri Lanka’s innings and helped them cross the 300-run barrier for the first time in the tournament. The tournament is a dead rubber for them but a performance like this will only help them rebuild their team.

They did beat the tournament favourites England and then get the better of West Indies, a team that arguably entered as favourites in this game. Sri Lanka have developed a knack of creating upsets of late. They beat India in the 2017 Champions Trophy but have been cold more often than not ever since that win. Their path as a team keeps oscillating between a series of mediocrity and occasional sparks of brilliance. 

If they are eyeing to regain their glorious days, young guns like Fernando and Kusal Mendis will have to step up and shoulder the responsibility. Fernando’s litmus test will be against the intimidating attack of India and one shouldn’t be surprised if he comes out in flying colours, which he is quite capable of. 

Sri Lanka too reliant on Lasith Malinga

In all three matches that Sri Lanka won in this tournament, Lasith Malinga had a crucial role to play. In fact, one wouldn’t be wrong in saying that three victories would have been impossible to achieve had Malinga not peform the way he did. 

Against Afghanistan, he bagged three whereas England had a tough time confronting his wily, uncanny change of pace and yorkers. Though it’s commendable that Malinga is still pulling it off despite being in the twilight of his career, for Sri Lanka it doesn’t augur well. 

Sri Lanka would look to rebuild from here on and would eventually need to get rid of the habit of banking on Malinga. Other bowlers need to get the job done and emerge as match-winners. In this encounter against West Indies, the veteran was once again the wrecker-in-chief with the new ball and bowled beautifully to put the opposition on the back foot.

Malinga set the stage beautifully but lacked enough support from his peers. He almost won them the game in the death overs by outfoxing the centurion Pooran on 108, but a horrible misjudgement at the boundary line by Thisara Perera not only gave Pooran a reprieve but also four bonus runs. Malinga may not look like the bowler he used to be, but has been very effective nevertheless. 

Sri Lanka ran out of options so badly that they had to summon Angelo Mathews - who last bowled a ball in December 2017, to bowl the 48th and 50th overs. So far, experience has worked wonders for Sri Lanka but with Malinga being in the twilight of his career, Sri Lanka would need an impactful replacement let along equivalent.   

Nicholas Pooran finally lives up to the expectations

Things have been spoken very highly about the southpaw and many have seen few sparks of what is in the store but today, Pooran justified the big talks and lived up to expectations when the chips were down. He might have failed to take his team over the line but did more than enough to lead West Indies’ fight back. In fact, he targeted the right bowler, and was unlucky in not being able to pull it off.  

Walking out to bat with West Indies 71 for the loss of three wickets, Pooran had a mountain to climb in front of him. But the southpaw stuck to his guns and stitched small partnerships before stitching a big one with Fabian Allen. The duo was taking the game away from the opposition but a horrible mix-up resulted in Allen’s dismissal at a crucial juncture of the match.  

The asking run rate was such that the batsmen could not have afforded to endure too many dot balls and had to keep the scoreboard ticking. Pooran played his strokes with perfection and ensured West Indies lost with immense dignity.

West Indies as a unit will be undoubtedly strengthened by the likes of Pooran and Shimron Hetmyer. In fact, just like Sri lanka, West Indies too are going through a rebuilding phase but are way ahead of them. In this tournament so far, Pooran kept getting starts but failed to convert with his highest score being 63. His maiden century will infuse plethora of self-belief and the confidence to stitch such kind of big innings on a consistent basis.

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