(Match Report: ICC & Photos: Cricket West Indies)
International cricket returned to the Caribbean on Wednesday and it came back with a bang in a match that had everything.
The first international match played in the Caribbean since last January ultimately saw Keiron Pollard’s six consecutive sixes with the bat beat Akila Dananjaya’s hat-trick with the ball.
Set a target of 132 after winning the toss, the West Indies got home by four wickets with 6.5 overs to spare but that barely tells the story of a match that swung wildly throughout.
The first over of the chase, delivered by Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews, was clobbered for 19 runs as Evin Lewis hit three consecutive sixes.
By the end of the third over the West Indies were 48/0 and when Lewis drilled Dananjaya over square leg for four to start the fourth over, it seemed things were going to continue down that path.
Dananjaya had other ideas, removing Lewis for 28 with his next delivery. That brought Chris Gayle out to the middle for his first international innings since 2019. Unfortunately for Gayle, it was a short stay as he fell lbw for a golden duck to Dananjaya. The mystery spinner became the 14th player to take a hat-trick in men’s T20I cricket with his next ball, taking Nicholas Pooran’s edge for another golden duck.
Things got worse for West Indies in the next over as opener Lendl Simmons was trapped in front by Wanindu Hasaranga for 26, reducing them to 62/4 and putting momentum firmly in Sri Lanka’s favour.
Pollard swung things back his team’s way, doling out healthy punishment to Dananjaya. Just an over after taking a hat-trick, the spinner was deposited for six consecutive sixes by Pollard, who celebrated the feat with a simple bow to his teammates in the dugout.
The first six was smashed off one knee over long-on, the second into the sight screen and the third over long-off. He went over midwicket for the fourth and then sent one way back over the bowler’s head for the fifth. The sixth was a nonchalant clip off the pads over deep mid-wicket.
He is only the third batter to ever hit six consecutive sixes in an international over, following South Africa’s Herschelle Gibbs in 2007 at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup and India’s Yuvraj Singh the same year at the first ever ICC Men’s T20 World Cup – then known as the World Twenty20.
As it turned out, those were the last runs Pollard scored for the match. The West Indies captain perished for 38 in the next over, trapped in front by Hasaranga. When the spinner repeated the trick against Fabian Allen (0) on the next delivery, it looked like this match was due for its second hat-trick.
Dwayne Bravo survived the hat-trick ball and West Indies managed to get the job done from there with little fuss.
There was one small scare however, with Jason Holder lucky to survive in the eighth over when he was dropped off the easiest of catches at deep mid-wicket. The poor bowler to miss out was Dananjaya, who simply could not stay out of the action.
There would be no more chances for the Sri Lankans to get back into the game, as Holder finished not out on 29 and Bravo on four. Fittingly, Holder closed the chase smashing a six over long-on.
Earlier, Sri Lanka was held to 131/9 after being sent out to bat, with debutant Pathum Nissanka top-scoring with 39 off 34.
After a positive start, the Sri Lankans were slowed down by the fall of Danushka Gunathilaka in the third over for 4. The opener was caught superbly by a diving Pollard at short mid-wicket, handing debutant Kevin Sinclair a maiden T20I wicket.
Niroshan Dickwella was the next batter out, bowled by Holder, who finished with figures of 1/19 off his four overs. The Sri Lankan innings never got going from there, with all six of the West Indies’ bowlers among the wickets and two batters falling run-out. Obed McCoy was the best of the West Indies’ bowlers, taking 2/25 off his four overs, accounting for Dinesh Chandimal (11) and Thisara Perera (1).