By BV Swagath
Sri Lanka have made it to the Finals of the Tri-Series after beating hosts West Indies by 39 runs in a rain-affected match at Port of Spain which was played for two days. Kumar Sangakkara played a great knock of 90* from 95 balls on a difficult batting track to help the Lankans post 219 for 8 in 41 overs. West Indies stumbled in their run chase to end up with 190 for 9 with the Sri Lankan Skipper leading from the front with four wickets.
The match which went into the reserve day was delayed because of showers and was thus reduced to a 45-over affair. Sri Lanka resuming at 60 for 3 in 19 overs lost an early wicket when Lahiru Thirimanne was cleaned up for pace by a quicker one by Marlon Samuels. The Lankans from 93 for 4 in the 26th over got to 122 for 4 in 32 overs before another rain interruption reduced the contest further to 41 overs.
Sri Lanka wasted little time and although a couple of wickets went down, they managed to reach a respectable total of 219 for 8. Angelo Mathews provided the momentum with a 27-ball 30 while Kumar Sangakkara batted through the innings and accelerated at the right time to come up with 90* from 95 balls (with 6 fours and a six).
The West Indian bowlers were simply erratic as they conceded 31 extras which included 24 wides! Kemar Roach with 8-2-27-4 and Darren Sammy with 9-2-24-0 were the exceptions though for the hosts. West Indies given a revised target of 230 from 41 overs were on the backfoot losing three early wickets.
Chris Gayle was first to go when he edged a backfoot drive off Mathews to point in the 5th over. Johnson Charles followed him in four balls after he was caught and bowled dragging a pull off Shaminda Eranga. The same bowler got Marlon Samuels caught nicely at first slip by Jayawardene after luring him into a flashy backfoot shot to reduce the hosts to 29 for 3 in 6 overs. It was game over for the homeside at 31 for 4 in 8.2 overs when Devon Smith got out lbw for a 14-ball duck, falling across on the frontfoot to a Mathews’ indipper.
West Indies then got through a slow partnership between Darren Bravo and Lendl Simmons. Once the pair steadied the ship, they shifted gears to come up with some explosive shots. Sri Lanka managed to break the stand just in the nick of time in the 32nd over with Lendl Simmons carving Eranga into the hands of deep covers. There was a drizzle in the background at this stage and West Indies were just short of the D/L Target then. Simmons scored a sizzling 67 from 78 balls with 5 fours and 4 sixes while putting up 83 with Bravo for the 5th wicket.
Skipper Kieron Pollard disappointed with a 4-ball duck as he tamely edged a seaming delivery from Malinga to the keeper to leave his side at 154 for 6. Darren Sammy was caught and bowled by the same bowler trying to play a desperate slog. With defeat looking very inevitable, Darren Bravo also perished leaving the park after a well struck 70 from 84 balls (with 4 fours and a six).
Sri Lanka towards the end were denied the bonus point by the last wicket pair as West Indies finished with 190 for 9 in 41 overs. The Lankans pulled off a tremendous victory despite their key bowler Nuwan Kulasekara leaving the park with split webbing in his 2nd over. Kumar Sangakkara, who earlier played a great knock, got the Man of the Match award.