To the thousands of Chris Gayle fans that streamed through the turnstiles at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Sunday evening panned out in anti-climactic fashion after their big Jamaican hero was unable to bat.
A hamstring injury in the field in the first innings caused Gayle to sit it out, but his absence did nothing to stop the West Indies from registering a seven-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in their Super 10 Group 1 ICC World T20 encounter.
Having restricted the opponent to 122, due chiefly to leg-spinner Samuel Badree’s three for 12, the Caribbean side crossed the line with 10 balls to spare. Andre Fletcher anchored the pursuit with an excellent, unbeaten 84 (64b, 6x4, 5x6), his presence at the wicket ensuring — much to the crowd’s dismay — that Gayle was not required to bat. The win was the West Indies’ second in two games, with a semifinal spot now within touching distance.
Sri Lanka may have had only a small total to work with, but its trio of spinners ensured the run chase was not exactly a stroll in the park. Forty-eight runs were required off the last six overs, when the left-arm spinner Milinda Siriwardana, who had figures of 3-0-14-2 stepped up to bowl his last over.
Jeffrey Vandersay (4-1-11-1) and the veteran Rangana Herath (4-0-27-0) had already bowled out, having exerted much pressure on the West Indies batsmen. It was at this stage that the game turned, when Fletcher bludgeoned successive sixes off Siriwardana. The over yielded 19 runs, with the result reduced to a formality.
Meanwhile, a rather engrossing drama was playing out on the sidelines. Gayle, who suffered a hamstring twinge while stretching to take Siriwardana’s catch and walked off the field in the first innings, was to bat “only if necessary”.
He wanted to walk out at the fall of the third wicket, but was told he needed to serve more time (two minutes) in the dressing room (or wait for the fall of the fifth wicket). Fletcher and Andre Russell came close to being dismissed, but, as the crowd groaned, hung on.
Earlier, Darren Sammy elected to field upon winning the toss. The first over promised much for Sri Lanka, when Tillakaratne Dilshan effortlessly deposited Russell over square leg, but things quickly went downhill.
Dilshan’s innings was cut short by a poor decision from the umpire Johan Cloete. Dinesh Chandimal was run out next over, chancing a single that never existed, and Sri Lanka’s brittle, lightweight middle order was swiftly exposed.
Badree did most of the damage, at a venue he will call home in the IPL next month, having been signed up by RCB in the auction. Lahiru Thirimanne was caught at point, Chamara Kapugedera stumped off a leg-break, and Siriwardana held at slip off a googly.
Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera then began a slow, painful rebuilding process, adding 44 runs for the sixth wicket. Sri Lanka went 43 balls without a boundary at one stage, before Perera crunched Russell down the ground. Only Perera helped the total gain some respectability, clubbing a 29-ball-40. Unfortunately for Sri Lanka, it proved too little.
WI:- 127/3 (18.2 Ovs)
SL:- 122/9 (20.0 Ovs)