Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - Avishka Fernando and Nicholas Pooran raise the bar with maiden ODI tons in 2019 World Cup
July 01, 2019 - It is an uncanny similarity that two youngsters, both playing their ninth ODI and with no three-figure score under their belt, went into what was considered a dead rubber in last year's ODI World Cup. Both rose to the occasion for their teams and ensured that the match was rife with ebbs and flows.
It was the 39th match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. Both Sri Lanka and West Indies had suffered losses in their last match against South Africa and India respectively. West Indies had been officially knocked out of the semi-final race after their massive 143-run loss against India.
Sri Lanka also had little hope but they still had a chance to somehow sneak in mathematically. However, with Pakistan, Bangladesh and England competing against each other for the last semi-final spot, the Lions knew that they were sailing in the same boat as their opponents.
Sri Lanka started in fine fashion with them passing the 90-run mark inside 15 overs. It was not the first time though that the opening pair of Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Perera had fired. The problem for them had been the middle order which had been part of too many collapses to be relied upon.
However, after the dismissal of Karunaratne and Perera in a matter of three overs, a 20-year-old Avishka Fernando took on the responsibility. The youngster went after the West Indies bowlers and mixed attack well with quick singles.
Fernando's run a ball century, his maiden ODI ton, included 9 fours and 2 sixes. And, what better stage to bring it up than the World Cup!
A target of 339 was daunting for West Indies, especially given that not many big totals were chased in the competition, contrary to expectations. When Indies were reeling at 84/4 and then at 145/5, with their best batsmen in Chris Gayle, Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer already back in the hut, the team had grim chances of chasing it down.
Nicholas Pooran, with an experience of only 8 ODIs under his belt, took the aggressive route. With him going all out, it seemed that the fireworks may not last long but when Pooran went past his half-century and then started racing towards his century, with an 83-run partnership with all-rounder Fabian Allen, the tide began to turn.
With 31 required off the last three overs and Pooran still at the crease, West Indies were in with a shout.
At this point, Sri Lankan skipper Karunaratne was faced with a quandary. Their best bowler by a mile, Lasith Malinga, had just one over left and the captain was looking for another bowler to bowl the other two overs. This is when experienced pro Angelo Mathews raised his hand. The all-rounder had not bowled in months and had given up on medium pace bowling after recurring injuries.
It was thus a shocker that off Mathews' very first delivery after a gap of 18 months and with the game on the line, Pooran went to cut a wide one, but could only edge it to wicketkeeper Kusal Perera. The youngster was distraught as he was dismissed on 118 off 103 deliveries, inches away from taking his team across the line.
Pooran's dismissal sounded the death knell for West Indies as they finished at 315 for 9 from their 50 overs. The Men in Maroon lost the match, but Nicholas Pooran emerged as the future star for them. The victors' camp also had a similar tale to tell.
In a match that was supposed to be a dead rubber, as the cliche goes, cricket was the real winner.
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