Down to the wire it went, today’s ICC World Cup Group D decider between Sri Lanka Under-19 and West Indies Under-19 at Conaree Sports Ground in St Kitts. And at the end of it, Dunith Wellalage’s side got to their 251 target with three wickets in hand and ten balls to spare to squeeze the fighting Giovante Depeiza-led West Indies Under-19s out of the playoff stage.
Sri Lanka and Australia remain in the hunt for the U-19 World Cup trophy, while West Indies are now consigned to the less glamorous Plate League.
The winning runs came off the bat of number 7 Ranuda Somarathne but it was opener Sadisha Rajapaksa who really steered the Sri Lankan ship most of the way home. Fifth man out as his side sought to chase down the West Indies 250 for 9, Man-of-the-Match Rajapaksa struck an unspectacular 76 off 115 balls with no sixes and just five fours.
But it was precisely the type of innings needed in the circumstances.
West Indies wicketkeeper Rivaldo Clarke, the top scorer in the defeat at the hands of Australia, made another sterling contribution to his team. He accelerated the scoring at a crucial stage with the bat, his 45 coming off just 35 balls, with two fours and four sixes. He also grabbed four catches in the field.
And a half-century by debutant Kevin Wickham and forties from Teddy Bishop and Jordan Johnson set the WI U19 up nicely for an essential win and a place in the playoff round next week Friday.
But in the end, Wellalage, Rajapaksa and their teammates were able to deny them.
Having lost their opening encounter to Australia and needing to beat the top-of-the-table Sri Lankans to qualify for the playoffs, WI made a shaky start. The toss also not going their way, the young WI lost two wickets inside the Powerplay to be 41 for 2 at the end of it. But despite losing three wickets via the run-out route in the frantic race to post a challenging total, they managed to set the Sri Lankans a target that would require some reaching.
The promising position was set up by the assured circumspection of Wickham (55 off 91, 5 x 4, 1x 6) and Bishop (45 off 62, 7 x 4), who put on 68 together for the third wicket, taking WI U19 to the relative solidity of 95 for 2 at the halfway mark.
Despite Wellalage ringing in the changes, the pair moved their team steadily towards three figures to leave the middle and lower order with a platform from which to launch an assault on the opposition bowlers.
They did not disappoint. After Wellalage’s left-arm spin accounted for Bishop, caught by Treveen Mathew at 102 for 3 in the 27th over, Clarke (R), Johnson (47 off 56, 4 x 4, 1 x 6), and McKenny Clarke (21 off 12, 1 x 4, 2 x 6) used the long handle to good effect in the last third of the innings.
Mathew (9-0-38-1), Matheesha Pathirama (10-0-67-2), Rajapaksa, whose first over of leg-breaks was number 37, and Wellalage himself (10-2–3-39) could do little to staunch the flow of runs and saw the ball sail over the boundary ropes no fewer than eight times.
One thing they could do was hit the stumps. And they did.
Wicketkeeper Anjala Bandara stopped number 6 Clarke (R) in his boundary-hitting tracks and also cleaned up number 7 Depeiza with two accurate throws. Number 8, Edwards, in the side in place of the Covid-hit Onaje Amory, fell to Shevon Daniel’s sharp return to Bandara.
With some runs to play with, Depeiza, standing in again for the Covid-affected Ackeem Auguste, used his bowlers wisely. He mixed the fare his team offered although the form of Shiva Sankar, Man-of-the-Match against Scotland on Tuesday, would have been a disappointment.
Edwards, however, gave him just the start he wanted, having Chaminda Wickramasinghe caught at the wicket by Clarke in his first over at 4 for 1.
Clarke would also catch Shevon Daniel off his namesake McKenny. And by the time he claimed his third victim of the innings, his opposite number Bandara, Sri Lanka were well on their way at 174 for 4.
With home in their sights, Sri Lanka had a few nervous moments. With 52 runs still needed, Isai Thorne (2/41), included in the XI in place of Anderson Mahase, trapped Rajapaksa right in front with his leg-spin. And then he, Clarke (M) (2/38) and Sankar claimed three more scalps with Sri Lanka still needing 17 runs for victory.
But Somarathne held his nerve to finish with an unbeaten run-a-ball 27 and ensure that his team retained their place at the top of the table, booking a date with the Group C runner-up at the Sir Vivian Richards Ground in Antigua on 28 January.
For Depeiza’s men, it’s third place and a return home to face most likely Papua New Guinea at the Diego Martin Sports Complex on 26 January
Toss: Sri Lanka
West Indies U19: 250 for 9 (Kevin Wickham, 56, Jordan Johnson 47, Rivaldo Clarke 45, Teddy Bishop 45, Dunith Wellalage 3/39, Matheesha Pathirama 2/67)
Sri Lanka: 251 for 7 (Sadisha Rajapaksa 76, Anjala Bandara 40, Shevon Daniel 34, McKenny Clarke 2/38, Isai Thorne 2/41)
Man-of-the-Match: Sadisha Rajapaksa
Result: Sri Lanka win by 3 wkts
Points: S/Lanka 2, WI 0
Final GROUP D Table
P W L T P NRR
Sri Lanka 3 3 0 0 6 0.753
Australia 3 2 1 0 4 0.089
West Indies 3 1 2 0 2 0.699
Scotland 3 0 3 0 0 -1.659