World Cup 2019: Fernando, Mathews help Sri Lanka past West Indies

Avishka Fernando’s 104 guided Sri Lanka to 338-6, its highest total of the World Cup, and Lasith Malinga starred with the ball as Sri Lanka wrapped up a 23-run victory.

Lasith Malinga took two early wickets before adding another one late to wrap up the victory for Sri Lanka.   -  Getty Images

Two youngsters, two centuries and a close finish! That’s how a rather inconsequential World Cup league fixture panned out at the picturesque Riverside Stadium on Monday, with Sri Lanka getting the better of the West Indies by 23 runs.

Put in to bat, Sri Lanka posted a mammoth 338-6 riding on Avishka Fernando’s 104. In pursuit, West Indies managed 315-9 in its 50 overs, with Nicholas Pooran’s 118 taking it strikingly close to victory.

Under pressure after West Indies had lost three wickets for 71 — including that of Chris Gayle — Pooran kept his cool, taking on a strong Sri Lankan pace attack spearheaded by Lasith Malinga. Relying on his natural style, the 23-year-old put together two partnerships — 54 with Carlos Brathwaite and 83 with Fabian Allen — to ensure there was no slip-up.

Rated highly by Gayle, the youngster built his gritty knock with eleven boundaries and four sixes. West Indies stayed on course till the 47th over, before Angelo Mathews — bowling his first over since December 2017 — sent Pooran back to the pavilion.

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If the afternoon belonged to Pooran, the first session turned out to be the biggest moment of young Fernando’s career. Interestingly, both of them were featuring in just their ninth One-Day International.

After showing sparks of brilliance in the side’s last two outings against England and South Africa, he capitalised on a good start to score 104 runs off 103 balls, aided by nine boundaries and a couple of sixes.

In doing so, he became the third youngest centurion in the World Cup — behind Ireland’s Paul Stirling and Australia’s Ricky Ponting.

The foundation to Fernando’s innings, and to Sri Lanka’s total, was laid by openers Kusal Perera and Dimuth Karunaratne. The pair put together 93 runs before skipper Karunaratne (32) was caught behind by Shai Hope off a swinging delivery from captain Jason Holder. Perera’s dismissal for 64 soon after created a bit of panic in the Sri Lankan dressing room.

But things settled soon with Fernando stepping up. Partnering Lahiru Thirimanne, the youngster ensured there was no slip-up. With the two making the most of a lacklustre West Indies bowling attack, Sri Lanka crossed the 300-run mark for the first time in this tournament.

On a day pop sensation Rihanna cheered from the stands, the folks from Sri Lanka ensured they spoilt West Indies’ party!

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