(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –In one of the more ridiculous T20 run-chases you will witness, Kieron Pollard became just the third player to hit six sixes in an over in international cricket off the same bowler, Akila Dananjaya, who had rocked West Indies’ chase just an over earlier with a hat-trick, as the hosts started the three-match T20I series against Sri Lanka with a win in Antigua.
It felt like it was either sixes or wickets for most of West Indies’ innings as an opening stand of 52 in 3.2 became 52 for 3 when Evin Lewis, Chris Gayle (on his comeback) and Nicholas Pooran fell in three balls to Dananjaya. Eight balls later Lendl Simmons also departed, lbw to the impressive Wanindu Hasaranga, before Pollard’s immense response.
Facing the next over from Dananjaya he joined Herschelle Gibbs and Yuvraj Singh in having taken 36 off an over with some of the shots almost going out of the small ground. West Indies’ powerplay tally of 98 was also a new record and the wild ride continued when Pollard was also lbw to Hasaranga before relative calm was brought to the conclusion by Jason Holder.
Holder returned to the T20 fold and turned in key contributions with both bat and ball to ensure a winning start. His 29 off 24 balls saw the West Indies home with 4 wickets and 41 balls to spare after they had limited Sri Lanka to a sub-par 134 for 6, on what was a good batting surface. Pollard’s 11-ball 38 all but took West Indies over the finish line, after Simmons and Lewis had given the hosts a blistering start. But such was the feast and famine nature of their batting – 75% of their runs (102) came in boundaries off just 19 deliveries – that the innings nevertheless required Holder’s steadying touch at the end to see the chase through.
So devastating was Pollard’s innings that it arguably took off most, if not all of the sheen off what would have otherwise been a dream return to international cricket for Dananjaya. Indeed, much of the uncertainty in West Indies’ chase was brought on by Hasaranga, whose back-to-back scalps of Pollard and Fabian Allen – the hosts still needed 31 runs with four wickets in hand at that point – had sown whatever doubt there might have been in the West Indies chase.
Obed McCoy’s 2 for 25 was the pick of the lot, but it was an all-round effort with each of the six bowlers used picking up a wicket. Aside from a brief period when debutant Pathum Nissanka and Niroshan Dickwella put on a 51-run second-wicket stand, the West Indies bowlers were always in control. The fact that just the three boundaries were conceded in final 10 overs, tells its own story.
West Indies seamers keep batters in check
Holder exercised all his considerable experience and showed exactly why the selectors had chosen to put their faith in him. Utilising his entire repertoire of variations – yorkers, slower balls, slower bouncers, you name it – he reeled back the Lankan innings in the middle overs, just as they would have been looking to up the scoring.
His four overs went for just 19 runs, and accounted for the wicket of Dickwella, who had been growing increasingly frustrated as a result of the obduracy of Holder and the West Indies bowlers in general.
Alongside him, Dwayne Bravo – another veteran returning to the side – and the much greener McCoy used similar variations to keep the visiting batsman quiet.
Fidel Edwards meanwhile also enjoyed a fruitful return to international cricket. At 39, he still showed he was able to hit the 140kph mark fairly regularly, and he was rewarded with the wicket of Angelo Mathews.
Nissanka impresses in brief cameo
Both Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews were guilty of picking out fielders when it would have been easier not to, while other seasoned campaigners, Dickwella and Thisara Perera, will not want to look back at their shot selection. But in Pathum Nissanka there was Sri Lanka’s one bright spark in an otherwise forgetful performance with the bat.
While he has impressed in first-class cricket, here he showed off his T20 chops. Coming in following the early dismissal of Gunathilaka, Nissanka showed no sign of nerves, comfortably rotating the strike initially, before switching gears. A glorious slog sweep for six over deep midwicket off Kevin Sinclair was undoubtedly the highlight of his innings, while a few more well-placed boundaries served to show some of the reasons behind his selection.
He will though still be disappointed at his inability to build on what was a promising start, getting bogged down towards the end of his innings, culminating in an ill-judged saunter down the tracks that saw him stumped off a flighted Fabian Allen delivery. He finished with 39 off 34 balls.