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Sangakkara, Mathews help Sri Lanka down West Indies

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Sri Lanka managed to hold off a strong counter attack from the West Indies to seal a 39-run victory (D/L Method) at the Queen's Park Oval, Trinidad in a game shortened to 41 overs-a-side. Lead by a commanding batting performance from Kumar Sangakkara, who struck an unbeaten 95-ball 90, and then by skipper Angelo Mathews bowling effort of 4-29 from his 8 overs, Sri Lanka won the game to earn themselves 4 points, and thus take them to the top of the points table with a higher net-run rate than the West Indies.

The game began on Sunday morning with West Indies's stand in skipper Kieron Pollard winning the toss and deciding to bowl first. West Indies went into the match with three changes from their previous encounter against India . Regular skipper Dwayne Bravo sat out of the game again due to his suspension, while Sunil Narine sat out due to injury. Denesh Ramdin was also dropped from the starting XI thus making way for Devon Smith, Jason Holder and Lendl Simmons to take their place in the line-up.

Sri Lanka made a couple of changes to their squad, leaving out opening batsman Kusal Perera and spinner Rangana Herath, while Jeevan Mendis and Shaminda Eranga took their spots in the Starting XI.

West Indies' opening bowler Jason Holder struck in the fourth over of the Lankan innings as he had opener Upul Tharanga, who scored 174* in the last match, dismissed for a 14-ball 7. Mahela Jayawardene was dismissed off the very next ball by Kemar Roach, after a rising short delivery hit Jayawardene on the helmet and then ricocheted off his helmet to point. Sri Lanka were 21-2 after 5 overs with Kumar Sangakkara and Dinesh Chandimal at the crease. Kemar Roach struck again to remove Dinesh Chandimal, as a good length delivery hit the latter's off-stump to leave Sri Lanka at a precarious 29-3 after 7 overs.

From that point on, Sangakkara and Lahiru Thirimane slowly started the re-building process for the Lankans and made sure no more wickets were lost. The run-rate fell to under 3.50 runs/over as the pair looked to grind the West Indian bowlers out. Sri Lanka were 50-3 after 15 overs, and then 60-3 after 19 overs, when the rains came forcing the match to move into a reserve day. In all 4 maidens were bowled in the 19 overs.

The game resumed at 11:15 am local time on the reserve day, and was reduced to a 45-over-a-side game. Sangakkara and Thirimane put on 33 runs in 7 overs on Day 2 before Marlon Samuels had Thirimane bowled for a73-ball 23 to leave Sri Lanka at 93-3 in the 26th over. Skipper Angelo Mathews walked in at number 6 to join Sangakkara and started timing the ball brilliantly from the very beginning as he smashed the sixth ball of his innings for 6. With Sri Lanka at 114-4 in the 31st over, the rains came again, forcing a delay of about 30 minutes, the game was further reduced to a 41-over-a-side game.

Mathews and Sangakkara picked up the scoring rate after the latest interruption, and started finding the boundary rope more often. Sri Lanka took the batting PowerPlay at the start of the 35th over, but lost skipper Mathews off the very first ball as he was caught at point for a 27-ball 30. Jeevan Mendis struck two fours in the same over, but was soon caught behind by Johnson Charles in the same over to leave Sri Lanka at 147-6 after 35 overs. Nuwan Kulasekara joined Sangakkara at the wicket, and the two batsmen struck some good hits, scoring 14, 14, 13 and 13 runs off the remaining PowerPlay overs. Sangakkara ended unbeaten on 90* as Sri Lanka ended up 219-8 after 41 overs.

The West Indian batsmen came out to chase a D&L revised total of 230 in 41 overs, knowing that a win would guarantee them a place in the final. Chris Gayle looked in good touch early on as he struck three early boundaries, before skipper Angelo Mathews had him dismissed in the fifth over for a 17-ball 14. From 25-1, West Indies slipped to 29-3 in the space of one over as pace bowler Shaminda Eranga had Johnson Charles and Marlon Samuels dismissed in the same over. Devon Smith faced 13 balls without scoring a run before Angelo Mathews struck again to have him dismissed lbw in the 9th over, leaving West Indies struggling at 31-4.

Lendl Simmons, making a comeback to the West Indies side, walked out at number 6, joining Darren Bravo at the center. The pair started off cautiously striking only boundaries between overs number 8 and 23. West Indies were 83-4 after 24 overs, when the pair decided to pick up the scoring rate and started playing many more shots. Lendl Simmons, in particular, started playing many more shots, and started clearing the rope, as the pair struck at least a couple of boundaries every over. West Indies were 144-4 after 31 overs before Lendl Simmons was dismissed for a 78-ball 67 to end the 123-run partnership for the 5th wicket. Skipper Pollard fell for a duck in the very next over to Malinga as West Indies slipped to 154-6, still needing 76 runs from 48 balls.

West Indies took the Powerplay in the 35th over, but lost Darren Sammy in the very next over, before Angelo Mathews struck the final blow by first dismissing Darren Bravo for a 84-ball 70, and then Jason Holder for a first-ball duck. West Indies batted out the rest of the 4 overs, and ended up 190-9 after 41 overs, falling 39 runs short of the target. Sri Lanka thus won the game, though without the bonus point. Sri Lankan bowler Nuwan Kulasekara though sustained an injury in the third over of the game on his left index finger and was ruled out of the remainder of the tournament by the end of the game.

With the victory, Sri Lanka are all but through to the Final, and rise to the top of the points table, tied on points with the West Indies, with a slightly higher net run-rate. India play Sri Lanka in the last game of the group stage on Tuesday. India need to win with a bonus point to definitely qualify for the final, though a victory against Sri Lanka without a bonus point would bring the equation down to net run-rate. India, at this point in time, have a lower net run-rate (-0.5.24) than the West Indies (-0.383).

Teams :

West Indies:  Chris Gayle, Johnson Charles, Devon Smith, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Kieron Pollard (c), Lendl Simmons, Darren Sammy, Jason Holder, Tino Best, Kemar Roach

Sri Lanka : Upul Tharanga, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews (c) , Lahiru Thirimane, Jeevan Mendis, Nuwan Kulasekara, Shaminda Eranga, Sachithra Senanayake , Lasith Malinga.

Mini Scorecard

Sri Lanka 219-8 (41 overs, 5.34 runs/over), revised target of 230 by D-L

K Sangakkara 90 (95) K Roach 4-27 (8)

A Mathews 30 (27)  K Pollard 1-24 (3)

West Indies 190-9 (41 overs, 4.63 runs/over)

DM Bravo 70 (84)  A Mathews 4-29 (8)

Lendl Simmons 67 (78) S Eranga 3-46 (8)

Result : Sri Lanka beat West Indies by 39 runs  (D/L Method)