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Rain spoils West Indies contest at the Oval

When time was called this afternoon at the end of the rain-ruined day’s play at the Queen’s Park Oval, there was one question on all lips – especially those of Virat Kohli’s Indians.

Will the West Indies be able, all were asking, to drive home their early advantage and keep Sri Lanka, on 60 for 3 after 19 overs, on the same five points as when the first ball was bowled this morning?

With luck, that question will be answered tomorrow because, unlike in last month’s Champions Trophy in England when Dwayne Bravo’s side missed out on a place in the semi-final, the Celkon Mobile Cup Tri-Nations series provides for a reserve day. So, weather permitting, play will resume tomorrow at 9:30am and the final positions will be decided on the field.

Photo: Stand-in West Indies cricket captain Kieron Pollard (centre) leads out the troops. (Courtesy Westindiescricket)
Photo: Stand-in West Indies cricket captain Kieron Pollard (centre) leads out the troops.
(Courtesy Westindiescricket)

In conditions that resembled a typical English summer’s day, with the pitch sporting a tinge of green and greyish clouds hovering overhead, stand-in West Indies captain Kieron Pollard won the toss. As Bravo had done against India on Friday, he inserted the opposition, confident in the ability of his new four-pronged pace attack to capitalize on the conditions.

Like the West Indian captain, the capacity crowd was confident, expectant even. The pace quartet did not disappoint. Partnering with fellow countryman Kemar Roach in particular, Holder brought back memories of the legendary Barbados short/tall Barbados duo of Malcolm Marshall and Joel Garner.

By the end of the opening Powerplay, they had contrived to expose the Sri Lankan middle order.

The opening breakthroughs came on either side of the fourth over. Dropped off Holder by Johnson Charles, wearing the gloves in place of the out-of-sorts Denesh Ramdin, Upul Tharanga soon perished, courtesy of an acrobatic catch by Darren Bravo at cover.

Photo: West Indies pacer Jason Holder made the most of the opportunity today before weather intervened. (Courtesy Westindiescricket)
Photo: West Indies pacer Jason Holder made the most of the opportunity today before weather intervened.
(Courtesy Westindiescricket)

Off the first ball of Roach’s next over, Mahela Jayawardene, his opening partner, who already has 11,000+ runs and almost 400 ODI matches to his credit, followed him. Unable to get on top of a snarling bouncer, he could only fend it off to Devon Smith, in for the suspended Bravo, at point.

Two overs later, Roach produced a sharp in-swinger that clipped the top of Dinesh Chandimal’s off-stump. At 29 for 3, Pollard’s move had paid dividends.

But in spite of the best efforts of Darren Sammy (4-2-4-0) and Tino Best (3-0-15-0), left-handers Kumar Sangakkara (11, 33 balls) and Lahiru Thirimanne (13, 39 balls) survived the next 12 overs to post a boundary-less but unbeaten partnership of 31. Then, at 10.57am, the heavens opened and persistent showers for the next two hours gave the officials no choice but to call it a day.

Photo: The Queen's Park Oval was under the weather today as persistent showers brought play to a premature end. (Courtesy Westindiescricket)
Photo: The Queen’s Park Oval was under the weather today as persistent showers brought play to a premature end.
(Courtesy Westindiescricket)

If they are to secure a place in Thursday’s final, the Windies must  restrict Sri Lanka to a modest score as they did in Jamaica and overhaul it in their turn at the crease. And whatever the eventual challenge, in his first assignment as captain before his home crowd, Pollard will have major incentive to produce one of his special innings.

However, Sangakkara, a veteran of almost 350 ODI’s with currently 40 or 50 more runs than Jayawardene to his name in this format, is still at the crease. He will very likely have a thing or two to say about how testing the target will be.

But the crowd may have exhausted the discussion on what awaits the home side tomorrow during the rain break. As the satisfied but frustrated fans streamed out of the Oval after the suspension of play, many weren’t talking West Indies so much as Trinidad.

What does the immediate future hold for Denesh Ramdin? Can a fit Rampaul reclaim his place from Holder? Now that Lendl Simmonds (who replaced Ramdin in the starting XI) has got another chance, will he make capital of it? Is Pollard a better captain that Bravo? Will he replace Sammy as WI T20 captain if his side wins tomorrow?

Photo: West Indies cricket fans had to make themselves busy today. (Courtesy Westindiescricket)
Photo: West Indies cricket fans had to make themselves busy today.
(Courtesy Westindiescricket)

But who can say what underlies that apparent indifference to the West Indian situation in this match? Is it confidence or concern about the team’s fate in this tournament? Or is it insecurity about India’s place in the final?

Perhaps time – and the weather – will tell.

AboutColin Benjamin

Colin Benjamin is a former freelance writer for the Trinidad Newsday newspaper and Guyana Stabroek News.

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