Wanindu Hasaranga the star as Sri Lanka spinners rout West Indies

Sri Lanka 160 for 6 (Gunathilaka 56, Nissanka 37, Bravo 2-25) beat West Indies 117 (McCoy 23, Sandakan 3-10, Hasaranga 3-17) by 43 runs

Sri Lanka’s spinners manufactured a convincing 43-run victory over the West Indies in Antigua to keep the three-match series alive and bring an end to an eight-match losing streak in T20Is.

On a sluggish surface, Akila Dananjaya, Wanindu Hasaranga, and Lakshan Sandakan proved a handful – picking up seven wickets between them, the latter two picking up three wickets apiece – as Sri Lanka defended their total of 160 with ease. Such was the control Sri Lanka’s spinners exerted, even part-time offspinner Danushka Gunathilaka got in on the act, picking up the wicket of Jason Holder.

In fact, 68 of the 117 runs the hosts eventually accumulated came off Sri Lanka’s two fast bowlers Dushmantha Chameera and Thisara Perera; 41 of those were taken from Perera’s two overs alone.

But while the final margin of victory suggested total dominance on the part of the visitors, at the half-way point they would have felt 15-20 runs short considering the start they had.

Gunathilaka, in particular, was in great nick, continuing the form that had seen him top the run charts at the Lanka Premier League a few months back. His 56 runs came off 42 deliveries and included four fours and two sixes, but it was the control he exerted throughout that was most impressive, rarely needing to take risks to accumulate his runs.

Alongside him Pathum Nissanka – one of the few bright sparks for the visitors from the first T20I – kept the scoreboard ticking along as the pair put on 56 inside the powerplay and 94 in the first ten overs. But the middle order once more failed to produce anything of substance as the next ten overs produced only 66 runs. Indeed it was only a late 11-ball 19 not out from the Player of the Match Hasaranga that saw Sri Lanka even manage the score they did – one which eventually proved enough.

Brilliant Bravo
Dwayne Bravo continued to trouble the Sri Lanka batsmen for a second game running as his mix of slower balls proved increasingly difficult to get away with. His four overs produced figures of 2 for 25, though it was his opening over which brought his side back into the game just as the Sri Lankans would have been to tee-off.

Coming into the attack in the 11th over, with Gunathilaka and Nissanka looking well set, Bravo came up with a bit of magic in the field to break the partnership. Scuttling to his left in his follow-through, Bravo picked up the ball, swivelled and in one move threw down the stumps at the non-striker’s end. Nissanka, who had been running well with Gunathilaka up until that point, was well short of his crease. Three balls later, Gunathilaka could only scythe a Bravo slower ball to the man at wide mid-off.

And just like that Sri Lanka, who would have been eyeing a total in the region of 180-200, had two new batsmen at the crease.

Sri Lanka’s middle-order woes
While the Sri Lanka openers had worked within a clear plan to counteract the West Indies bowlers’ utilisation of slower deliveries, their middle-order batsmen had clearly not received the memo. Of particular concern will be the failure of their stand-in captain Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal to score off quickly.

The pair scored 16 runs between them off 22 deliveries, and at no point looked like they would hurt the West Indies bowlers. It was not until Ashen Bandara and Hasaranga were at the crease that any sort of impetus returned to the innings.

While this soft underbelly didn’t hurt them in this game, it’s a gradual point of concern that Mickey Arthur and Co will need to address sooner rather than later.

Spinners come to the fore
If there was one takeaway from the first T20I, it was that most West Indies batsmen struggled against spin. So it was no surprise when Sri Lanka opted to go with an extra spinner in the second game, bringing in Sandakan for Nuwan Pradeep.

The plan could hardly have worked better, with Sri Lanka’s spinners picking up eight wickets between them. While Hasaranga was the pick of the lot, picking up the wickets of Chris Gayle and Lendl Simmons in his very first over, Dananjaya and Sandakan were equally effective.

Dananjaya was exemplary in the powerplay, his three overs bring figures of 1 for 7; he would end with figures of 1 for 13. A fine return on most days, but even more impressive considering he was hit for six sixes in an over by Kieron Pollard just a couple of days ago.

Sandakan, meanwhile, took the prized scalp of Pollard before cleaning up the tail with the wickets of Kevin Sinclair and Obed McCoy, the latter threatening briefly of an unlikely fightback with a seven-ball 23.

Sri Lanka execute their plans, West Indies fail in theirs
There is a reason the West Indian strategy of dealing primarily in boundaries is considered high-risk, high-reward. When it works, you get results like that on Wednesday night, or any number of heists they’ve pulled off in their T20I history. But when it doesn’t, even chasing a fairly gettable 161 becomes a trudge through the mud.

For Sri Lanka, they knew what the West Indies batsmen were going to throw at them, and so gambled on bowling out their best bowlers early; by the end of the 16th over, all three of Hasaranga, Dananjaya, and Chameera – who had 8 wickets between them – had completed their quotas. This meant that either Perera or the part-timer Gunathilaka would have to bowl two of the last four overs, but with the asking rate soaring beyond 20 by that point, the game was as good as done.

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