Bangalore: It was not really hard to guess where the loyalty of a large part of the crowd was. Whenever the giant screen flashed Chris Gayle, they cheered. Obviously, they were hoping for a Gayle-storm-filled Sunday night.
West Indies Andre Fletcher plays a shot during the ICC World T20 match between West Indies and Sri Lanka at Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on Sunday. Pic/PTI
But their wish was not exactly granted. First, West Indian skipper Darren Sammy asked Sri Lanka to bat first in their World T20 game at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium. Then, a left hamstring twitch forced him to go out of the field, and much to the disappointment of a packed house, he did not come out to open the West Indian innings as well.
However, the reduced participation of the big Jamaican did not really affect the West Indian performance. Their bowlers produced a disciplined effort to limit Sri Lanka to 122 for nine in 20 overs, and then survived some tight spots to emerge a seven-wicket winner.
The packed crowd had to content with another West Indian power-hitter. Andre Fletcher (84 not out) came in for Gayle and matched the left-hander for strokes and impact. His half-century played a massive role in the former champions' second successive victory in this tournament, taking them a step closer to the semi-finals berth.
West Indies bowler Samuel Badree with team mates celebrate the wicket of Siriwardene of Sri Lanka during the ICC World T20 match between West Indies and Sri Lanka at Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on Sunday. Pic/PTI
The other top order West Indian batsmen struggled against the leg-spin of Geoffrey Vandersay. But Fletcher was cut from a different cloth. The right-hander just stepped into the line of a leg-break and clobbered the bowler for a six – a la Kevin Pietersen.
But even Fletcher had to endure the crowd's wrath. Fletcher edged pacer Dushmantha Chameera for Dinesh Chandimal to complete a diving catch behind the stumps. Seldom a dismissal was celebrated with so much gusto by the crowd.
"We want Gayle." They made their demand public in one huge shout. But they were denied again. This time by reserve umpire Ian Gould, who reminded Gayle that he has not spend enough time outside to compensate for the time he missed while fielding due to injury. But on this night, the West Indies did not require Gayle's force.
Sri Lanka's Thisara Perera plays a shot during the ICC World T20 match against West Indies at Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on Sunday. Pic/PTI
It was one of those what-happened-there moments. Dwayne Bravo delivered a loopy full toss and Angelo Mathews, standing outside the crease, tried to avoid the ball while on his knees.
The ball took a deflection on the top edge of Mathews' bat before stumper Denesh Ramdin pouched an easy catch. TV umpire Simon Fry gave the Lankan skipper out after considering the height if Mathews was on his normal stance. That was the lone striking feature of Sri Lankan innings except a few beefy hits by Thissara Perera.
Sri Lanka: 122 for 9 in 20 overs (Thisara Perera 40; Samuel Badree 3/12, Dwayne Bravo 2/20).
West Indies: 127 for 3 in 18.2 overs.( Andre Fletcher 84 not out, M Siriwardana 2/33).
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