West Indies look to keep series alive against Sri Lanka in clash of equals

Big picture

As the action moves from the leafy surrounds of the SSC to the jungles of the southeast, both teams may ponder their shortcomings from the first game. Neither middle-order quite fired. West Indies lost five wickets for 68 runs while Sri Lanka might reflect they could have done better than lose their first four wickets within 57 runs after a century opening stand, then their next four for 61. Sri Lanka’s spinners failed to produce wickets through the middle overs and West Indies’ quicks were modest under the pressure of a tight finish.

But although these are clearly flawed teams, they also appeared to be evenly matched. Aside, perhaps, from Sri Lanka’s 111-run opening stand, there was no sustained period of dominance from either side. A wicket would fall to clip a burgeoning stand short or a spate of boundaries would frequently break the shackles. Each side has promising young players – most notably Keemo Paul and Wanindu Hasaranga from the first match – and captains who took over in moments of crisis last year. Both sides have relatively settled XIs for now, but several players are only a few bad performances away from having their places questioned.

Given the similarities, it may be the side that best adapts to the Sooriyawewa ground’s particular challenges that wins. There can sometimes be a fierce crosswind at the venue. Sri Lanka have occasionally used the wind to the advantage of their swing bowlers, but have more often found that it messes with bowlers’ accuracy and flight. Batsmen, meanwhile, have had success largely targeting the downwind side of the ground, and hit aerially into the wind at their peril.

Form guide

West Indies LWWWL (completed matches, most recent first)

Sri Lanka WLLWW

In the spotlight

Sri Lanka’s fielding has happily lent itself to comic comparisons in the past few years, but an outstanding all-round effort on Saturday has hinted that the age of slow-motion dives and slapstick fumbles may be over. It wasn’t quite a flawless effort, but almost – no catches were dropped, two run outs were clinically affected and the ground fielding was reliable. Coach Mickey Arthur has spoken glowingly about the improvements in Sri Lanka’s fielding standards over the last few months, and so far, his team seems to be proving him right.

Shai Hope, Saturday’s only centurion, has been putting together quite a record in recent years. His overall ODI average is impressive enough at 51.90, but his average as an opener is 91.88 after 21 innings, and seven of his nine centuries have come from the top of the order. Perhaps even more consequential to this series is his average in Asia, which after 15 innings, is a whopping 123.66. With so many of his team-mates capable of making rapid runs, Hope is increasingly the trunk around which West Indies build their innings.

Team news

Kieron Pollard seemed averse to the idea of making many changes to the XI. They may toy with the idea of bringing in left-arm spinner Fabian Allen for Hayden Walsh Jr, who took two wickets, but conceded 38 runs from five overs.

West Indies (possible): 1 Sunil Ambris, 2 Shai Hope (wk), 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Roston Chase, 5 Nicholas Pooran, 6 Kieron Pollard (capt), 7 Jason Holder, 8 Fabian Allen, 9 Keemo Paul, 10 Alzarri Joseph, 11 Sheldon Cottrell

With Thisara Perera’s bowling in the Powerplay having proved successful in the first ODI, Sri Lanka may stick with the same XI.

Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Dimuth Karunaratne (capt), 2 Avishka Fernando, 3 Kusal Perera (wk), 4 Kusal Mendis, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Dhananjaya de Silva, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Wanindu Hasaranga, 9 Isuru Udana, 10 Lakshan Sandakan, 11 Nuwan Pradeep

Pitch and conditions

Generally, the Sooriyawewa pitch is one of the quicker tracks in the country though that is not to say it doesn’t also take turn. It is also one of the hottest venues in the country, but if the wind is around, the players may get some relief.

Stats and trivia

    • West Indies have never won an ODI series in Sri Lanka. Their best result came in December 1993, when they drew 1-1.

    • Shai Hope averages over 60 in each of the last two calendar years, which is largely when he has opened the innings. Outside opening the innings, his best record is at No. 5, where he has batted three times and averages 42.5.

    • Lakshan Sandakan has gone wicketless in seven of his last eight ODIs. Though he also has not been granted a consistent place in the XI through that period.