Mahela magic leaves Windies spellbound

BRIDGETOWN: Mahela Jayawardene''s superb form at the World Twenty20 continued as he made an unbeaten 98 in Sri Lanka''s 57-run win over the West Indies in the Super Eights here on Friday.

The opener''s entrancing innings at the Kensington Oval was the centrepiece of Sri Lanka''s total of 195 for three - the best by any side this tournament.

But the West Indies helped last year''s losing finalists greatly by missing six chances during a wretched fielding display as they lost for the first time in the competition.

Jayawardene, given two reprieves, faced 56 balls with four sixes and nine fours as he followed up his 81 against New Zealand and 100 against Zimbabwe with another dominant innings.

The former captain''s average for the tournament now stands at a scarcely credible 139.5 and there is no doubt he is enjoying his new lease of life as an opener in this format.

"Whatever the role you''re given, you back yourself to contribute," Jayawardene said at the post-match presentation.

"Opening the batting gives you more time, it suits my game," the man-of-the-match added.

Earlier Friday, a statement on Sri Lanka Cricket''s own website berated the national''s team performances in the Caribbean so far, saying most of the senior players looked "rusty and tired".

The statement added: "Jayawardene seems to be the sole breadwinner in the batting department. He needs support."

Well in this match he got it from Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara (68) in a partnership of 166, the second best in all Twenty20 internationals.

Only Loots Bosman and Graeme Smith, with 170 for South Africa against England at Centurion last year, have enjoyed a bigger stand at this level.

"Mahela was superb again, his form has been crucial to us getting this far in the tournament," said Sangakkara, dropped on nought and 27.

West Indies captain Chris Gayle, who dropped Sangakkara at slip when his opposite number had yet to score, was at a loss to explain his team''s inept fielding.

"We had our chances, but we put them down," he said. "I can''t say why our fielding was so bad, we have worked extremely hard on it."

He added: "We are in a must-win situation now, I hope we can lift our game."

West Indies lost two wickets early on as Shivnarine Chanderpaul and the hard-hitting Gayle both fell cheaply, with Sri Lanka holding their catches as the hosts slumped to 23 for two.

The innings never really recovered from that double blow and West Indies limped to 138 for eight off 20 overs.

Ramnaresh Sarwan (28) and Dwayne Bravo (23) were the only batsmen to pass 16 in an innings where extras was the third-best contributor with 17.

Spinner Ajantha Mendis took three wickets for 24 runs from his maximum four overs and paceman Lasith Malinga three for 28.

Senior spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, back in the side following a groin injury, took none for 26 from four overs.

Sangakkara, also dropped on 27, eventually holed out having faced 49 balls with three sixes and five fours.

Jayawardene showed his class throughout but he too was given a couple of lives, both in the same over from left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn.

On 65, he was well beaten by a Benn delivery, only for occasional wicketkeeper Andre Fletcher to miss the stumping.

Jayawardene had added only one to his score when he skied behind but, embarrassingly, neither Fletcher nor short third man Wavell Hinds went for the catch and the ball fell safe.

No one has yet made two Twenty20 international hundreds but the unselfish Jayawardene refused to hog the strike in the last over as Tillakaratne Dilshan ended the innings with a four.

Both teams are back here on Sunday, with the West Indies playing India and Sri Lanka facing Australia, who thrashed the Indians by 49 runs earlier Thursday.