| West Indies’ Ricardo Powell (right) and teammate Vasbert Drakes in a playful mood in Cape Town Thursday. (Reuters)
Cape Town: Sri Lanka and the West Indies face off in a key World Cup showdown Friday as the nail-biting race for the Super Sixes from Group B moves into the last stretch. The winners of the day-night game at Newlands will be assured of a place in the second round, while the losers could take an early flight home.
New Zealand, who defeated Bangladesh Wednesday, joined Sri Lanka and Kenya at the top of the group with 12 points each, two ahead of the West Indies and four clear of hosts South Africa. Any of these five teams could take the three Super Six berths from the group depending on how the result of the remaining six matches go.
Sri Lanka dug themselves into a hole following their shock 53-run defeat at the hands of Kenya in Nairobi Monday, but their skipper Sanath Jayasuriya said he was confident Lanka would be able to bounce back from that Kenya debacle. The West Indies appear to have slipped after defeating South Africa in the tournament-opener.
The brilliant 67-ball century by Canada’s John Davison, the fastest hundred in the history of the tournament, exposed the limitations of the West Indian bowling attack.
Captain Carl Hooper, however, dismissed suggestions that the bowling should be beefed up by the inclusion of seamer Jermaine Lawson in place of the out-of-form Chris Gayle. “Yes, we have those two problems,” Hooper said. “We have got the opening slot which has not been productive so far this tournament, but I am hoping that it will come good.
“I am sure that we will get into the next round. Which means we have three more games, hopefully we will also have a semi-final and the final. So there is a lot of time for Gayle and Wavell Hinds and I am sure that in time they will get some runs.”
Hooper, however, conceded the close race for the Super Sixes had his team on its toes. “If we had any thoughts or complacency about how tough it’s going to be for the next couple of weeks, I think the game against Canada was a good wake-up call for us,” he said.
“If we thought for a minute that it was going to be a piece of cake to beat Sri Lanka...Then maybe we should sit down and check our attitudes and the way we are approaching the one-day game.”
The West Indies were hit badly when their game against Bangladesh was washed out, costing them two valuable points, after losing to New Zealand.
Brian Lara and Hinds have shown good form with the bat, but the meagre West Indian bowling resources have found it tough to defend the runs.
“That’s (the defeat to Kenya) history now, it’s gone and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Jayasuriya said Thursday. “It was a game we should have won but we can’t look back, we have to look forward.”
Jayasuriya said he had drawn confidence from his team’s amazing turnaround on their recent tour of Australia. Bowled out for just 65 by Australia A, Sri Lanka managed to rack up 343 against the full-strength Australian side just a few days later.
Although they failed to make the final of the triangular series also involving England, the humiliation of being dismissed for 65 proved to be a turning point in the team’s fortunes. Jayasuriya and Maravan Atapattu both blasted centuries in an opening stand of 237, handing the Australians their only one-day defeat so far this season and laying the platform for a bright start to the World Cup.
“We came back well then so we know we can do it again,” said the Sri Lanka captain.
Friday’s day-nighter at Newlands is shaping as one of the biggest matches of the tournament, both teams facing the chance of missing out on the Super Sixes.
The Lankan bowling has been top-class at this tournament with left-arm seamer Chaminda Vaas and off spinner Muttiah Muralidharan bagging plenty of wickets. There are, however, real concerns over their batting.
Jayasuriya is worried about the middle-order’s failure to consolidate whenever the top three are dismissed cheaply and knows that area needs to be repaired if victory is to be achieved against West Indies. “That is still a problem for us but we are confident we can fix that,” he said.
SRI LANKA (from): Sanath Jayasuriya (capt), Marvan Atapattu, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Aravinda de Silva, Russel Arnold, Jehan Mubarak, Avishka Gunawardene, Hashan Tillekeratne, Muttiah Muralidharan, Chaminda Vaas, Dilhara Fernando, Pulasthi Gunaratne, Prabath Nissanka, Charitha Buddhika.
WEST INDIES (from): Carl Hooper (capt), Ridley Jacobs, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Pedro Collins, Corey Collymore, Mervyn Dillon, Vasbert Drakes, Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Wavell Hinds, Brian Lara, Jermaine Lawson, Nixon McLean, Ricardo Powell, Ramnaresh Sarwan.
Umpires: David Orchard (SA) & Srinivas Venkatraghavan (Ind).
Third umpire: Brian Jerling (SA).
Match Referee: Denis Lindsay (SA).