Sri Lanka have proved everyone that they are strong contenders for winning this edition of the Champions Trophy in India. In their last qualifying match they decimated an equally strong West Indies side by 9 wickets at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai.
Batting first on a dry wicket after winning the toss, Windies were shot out for a paltry 80 in 30.4 overs, their lowest ever total against Sri Lanka. Only two batsmen crossed double figures and Mr.Extras was the second highest scorer with 17 to his name to be behind Wavell Hinds who fought and fought to get just 28 in 86 balls. Forget about the West Indian batsmen and the man who was responsible for a short cricket match today, a humiliating West Indian defeat was the 22 year old tall and strong Sri Lankan all rounder Farveez Maharoof who made excellent use of the pitch conditions which was holding up and not allowing the ball to come onto the bat. Maharoof also used the seaming conditions along with the variation in pace and then the lethal reverse swing to pick up 6 wickets for 14 in 9 overs. Maharoof made the ball talk and it was a never ending procession of the West Indies batsmen coming and going. Lasith Malinga and Chaminda Vaas bowled important spells as well taking two wickets apiece.
It was a dream start for the Lankans with Chaminda Vaas who had returned back to the side in place of Ruchira Perera forcing the inform Chris Gayle to nick the fourth legal delivery of the match behind the wickets. Vaas wasted no time in catching Sarwan in the crease with the right hander missing Vaas’s late inswinger and Lasith Malinga at the other end proved that he wasn’t a silent partner for Vaas as he got Chanderpaul to edge one that angled in and left him in the end. West Indies were at 13 for 3 and the repair work was in progress through Brian Lara and Wavell Hinds. The introduction of Farveez Maharoof saw Brian Lara get back to the pavilion as well with the left hander deceived by a delivery that looked like it was slanting across but straightening to rap him up in front of the stumps. Brian Lara survived 35 deliveries scoring 13 runs and the rest of the batsmen surrendered to Maharoof and co. with the ball starting to reverse swing pretty early. West Indies couldn’t even post three figures and it was for sure a cakewalk for the Lankan Lions. Maharoof’s magic saw him finish at 6 for 14 in 9 overs.
In reply Sri Lanka did not sweat much to get to the target although they lost Upul Tharanga in the first ball of the innings. Tharanga got an inside edge onto the stumps after dabbing at an outswinging yorker from Fidel Edwards. That was the only joy that West Indies could find throughout the day as they watched helplessly as Jayasuriya thrashed them for an unbeaten 45 along with Mahela Jayawardene who raced away to 34. Sri Lanka were actually about 15 runs or so short of their target when the Umpires had taken the bails off for the supper time or dinner time which was scheduled at 6 pm local time but common sense prevailed with the two captains Lara and Jayawardene deciding to carry on and Sri Lanka soon got the runs in 13.2 overs. It would have been a miracle had there been any other player declared as the Man of the Match other than Farveez Maharoof.
West Indies in a way were lucky that their bad day came in this almost insignificant match rather than a big one during the main draw. The Brabourne Stadium which is hosting its first match after a long gap of 11 years has disappointed with the kind of sluggish wicket it has provided today. With quite a few matches to be played in this ground, it looks likely that there will be some more of these batting collapses to be seen as the tournament progresses. The ball was stopping and coming at the bat which meant that driving on the up was simply out of the equation. The bounce wasn’t high enough so the leg before chances for the batsmen was huge. The only positive for the batsmen was the deadly quick outfield. All in all it wasn’t that bad a pitch for a total of 80 to be posted but with some steady start against the new ball and a disciplined approach with proper shot selection could have got a total of 220 which should be an ideal one on this type of wicket. Well with the six games of the Preliminary Round done and dusted, it is now that the real tournament begins with India taking on England at Jaipur tomorrow.