Nicholas Pooran matched Avishka Fernando’s brilliance with a sparkling hundred in a 339-run chase at the Riverside Ground, but couldn’t prevent the West Indies from a fifth straight defeat at the 2019 World Cup. Here’s John Stern’s report from the 2020 Wisden Almanack.
Sri Lanka v West Indies
Match 39, ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
Riverside Ground, Chester-le-Street
July 1, 2019
Two stylish maiden one-day centuries imbued the tournament’s first officially dead match with class, passion and unexpected tension. The lack of meaningful context did not dampen the atmosphere at Riverside. Sri Lankan flags flew proudly in a stiff breeze, and attention turned later to the sight of the Bajan pop star Rihanna – a schoolmate of Brathwaite – cheering them on from a hospitality box as West Indies fought back.
Fernando, 21, and Pooran, 23, each shone in their ninth ODI. Fernando, compact, fluent and reminiscent of Mahela Jayawardene, became Sri Lanka’s youngest World Cup centurion as they reached 250 for the first time in the tournament.
West Indies’ melancholic body language and feckless out-cricket did not suggest a purposeful pursuit; nor did the opening overs of their reply. Gayle threatened briefly but, at 84 for four, the match looked over. The left-handed Pooran had other ideas, bringing to fruition all the hours of Brian Lara worship, and adding 83 in ten overs for the seventh wicket with Fabian Allen.
Even when Allen fell for a 32-ball 51 – one of three run-outs involving Pooran – West Indies still had hope. That evaporated, though, when Pooran was caught behind off Mathews’s first ball in an ODI since December 2017.
First published in the 2020 Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack