Riding on Wanindu Hasaranga’s sensational knock, Sri Lanka registered a nerve-wrecking 1-wicket victory over West Indies in the first ODI at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo on Saturday (February 22).
Sent into bat, the visitors posted 289/7 in 50 overs on the back of opener Shai Hope’s 115 from 140 balls.
In reply, the hosts got off to a brilliant start with Avishka Fernando (50 off 55 balls), Dimuth Karunaratne (52 off 57 balls) adding 111 runs for the opening wicket. However, the Lankan middle-order failed miserably as Alzarri Joseph (3/42), Keemo Paul (2/48) and Hayden Walsh (2/38) kept taking wickets at regular intervals.
Amid the collapse, Hasaranga held the one end firmly and remained unbeaten on 39-ball 42 to take his team over the line with five balls to spare.
"I was able to finish a match like this today because the T20 club final innings that I had played," Hasaranga said after the match. "Also in the practice matches I'd played well from lower in the order. That's where I will bat in the national team, so even in the club matches I made sure to bat Nos. 6, 7 and 8."
Stressing on the importance of finishers in white-ball cricket, Hasaranga said: "Yes, they were club matches, but it did have an effect on my mind. I had the confidence that I can play these kinds of innings. As far as I know, someone who can finish matches is the kind of player who can have a long career. I wanted to be someone who could do that for the team."
When Sri Lanka were struggling at 215/6, Hasaranga shared a 38-run stand with Thisara Perera that kept the home team on track in the chase.
Talking about the partnership, Hasaranga said: "When I went to bat we still had 75 to get. Thisara aiya was batting at the time - he had 10 or 15 at the time. He can play the big shots at any time. I managed to get a four and a six early on, without too much effort. So I tried to support Thisara when he was batting. I tried to stay in the wicket until it was necessary for me to take a risk.
"When Thisara and I were batting, it also looked like there was a bit of rain in the air. We wondered if the match would stop for bad light or whatever. It was almost 5.30 at the time. But we wanted to be 10 runs in front of the Duckworth-Lewis par score. We didn't want to throw wickets away. It was because we had tried to get ahead of the rate at that time that I was able to take my time and finish like I did," he further remarked.
(Inputs from Cricbuzz)