It became quite apparent early on in the chase that Sri Lanka won’t be able to defend a small target when Angelo Mathews, their captain and one of the safer fielders in the side, dropped a simple chance offered by Johnson Charles off Nuwan Kulasekara.
Sri Lanka did try to surprise West Indies by bringing Ajantha Mendis on in the fifth over. But with no real pressure, Gayle, without much help from a struggling Charles, set the platform and unleashed his timing and power all over the Sri Lankans, hitting three effortless sixes in the opening Power Play itself. The best of them was a dismissive flick over midwicket off Kulasekara that sailed over the party stand.
West Indies was in a similar situation as Sri Lanka at the ten-over mark – 48 for no loss against Sri Lanka’s 50 for no loss – but with Gayle hitting his stride, the Sri Lankans could see that it would be a mountain too high to climb for them. Lasith Malinga tried his best with quick yorkers and fast bouncers and Mendis with his assortment of turners, but the 100-run partnership between Gayle and Charles came up in the 20th over.
Charles finally found his rhythm but skied one off Rangana Herath as Sri Lanka finally broke through with less than 100 runs required. Gayle continued his destruction as he carted Mathews and punished Herath straight down the ground, bringing up his 21st One-Day International century off just 89 balls (9x4, 6x6). This was Gayle’s first ODI century since the one he scored at the same venue in 2012 against New Zealand. His top score in the interim was a measly 39 and his average a paltry 15.
Though Sri Lanka dismissed Gayle soon after he went past the personal landmark, it was only a matter of time before the remaining runs were knocked off. Despite a minor wobble with Darren Bravo getting run out and Kieron Pollard getting a rough call, Dwayne Bravo and Marlon Samuels put an end to Sri Lanka’s misery in the 38th over.
Things looked rosy earlier in the day as Sri Lanka, put in to bat by Dwayne Bravo, opened up after a couple of watchful overs at the start, mainly through the silken drives of Mahela Jayawardena. Rampaul and Kemar Roach were not very economical and Rampaul also received an official warning from umpire Ian Gould for running on to the danger area.
Dwayne Bravo brought himself on as second change, and with control exerted by Darren Sammy from the other end, West Indies finally broke through in the 14th over, bringing the old firm of Kumar Sangakkara and Jayawardena together. Soon, Jayawardene reached his 70th ODI fifty, reverse sweeping Narine, who had just replaced Dwayne Bravo from the Michael Holding End. But Jayawardena got out two balls later after an inside edge ballooned off his pads into wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin's gloves.
Sammy’s tidy seven-over spell that cost only 25 runs allowed West Indies to climb back in, and Narine removed Sangakkara, caught at covers, reducing Sri Lanka to 104 for 3 in 22 overs. Sri Lanka would have been in further strife if Gayle had taken a straightforward chance at first slip off Mathews when an improved Roach came on for his second spell.
However, as Sri Lanka looked to rebuild and set itself up for the second Power Play, Dinesh Chandimal handed Samuels his wicket, holing out at midwicket. Things got worse as the Power Play began, with Lahiru Thirimanne out caught at long on off Rampaul after scoring just six runs off 19 balls.
A promising start was frittered away by a combination of disciplined bowling and injudicious shots. Even Kulasekara, coming ahead of Jeevan Mendis, couldn’t really push the scoring rate as he fell hooking to deep square-leg. Mathews played a lone hand in shoring up the lower order, scoring an unbeaten 55 off 77 balls, as Sri Lanka limped along before being bowled out for 208 runs in the 49th over.
Narine and Rampaul ended with impressive figures of 4 for 40 and 3 for 39 respectively, but a lot of credit must also go to Sammy’s tight opening spell that put the brakes on Sri Lanka’s scoring. It would have taken a miracle or rain for Sri Lanka to salvage something from the match but on the day, neither came to bear fruit.