“We want Gayle” demanded the holiday crowd of around 30,000 at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, disappointed that the West Indies demolition man didn’t come out to open. Chris Gayle fans had turned out in numbers hoping the local IPL hero will follow up on his 48-ball century against England in the opener.
Gayle went off the field late in the Sri Lanka innings due to a hamstring twitch. If Sri Lanka felt it opened the door an inch, all-rounder Andre Fletcher hammered an unbeaten 84 (64 balls, 6x4, 5x6) to snuff out those hopes after coming into the team in place of a pacer and then asked to open in place of Gayle.
Sri Lanka lost the match in the first few overs. They hobbled to 122/9 thanks to some late effort by skipper Angelo Mathews (20) and all-rounder Thisara Perera, who top-scored with a 29-ball 40. Their 44-run partnership didn’t really make amends for the earlier capitulation. West Indies finished on 127 with 10 balls to spare.
Rebuilding the batting after the retirement of stalwarts is not easy. India were lucky, but not Sri Lanka. Since Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara left, they have struggled to find batsmen with temperament or technique.
Against Afghanistan, veteran Tillakaratne Dilshan saved the day. He got off to a strong start after West Indies skipper Darren Sammy chose to bowl first on a good pitch. But a shocking leg before decision clipped his knock.
Andre Russell going for 13 runs in the first over convinced Sammy that spin was the way to go in the repeat of the 2012 WT20 final. Leg spinner Samuel Badree was outstanding, and unable to rotate the strike, Dinesh Chandimal was run out. Badree (3/12) and left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn conceded just 25 runs in eight overs.
West Indies have enjoyed chasing so far. Senior spinner Rangana Herath was ineffective (0/27). Other spinners Milinda Siriwardana and Jeffrey Vandersay began well, but Fletcher’s two successive sixes off Siriwardana pushed West Indies close to the target.
Gayle could not come to bat until his team had batted the time he spent away from the field or the fifth wicket fell. He was on the boundary desperate to entertain his fans and had to be virtually dragged back by reserve umpire Ian Gould to get back.
In the end, he wasn’t complaining.