The West Indies batsmen struggled to come to terms with the Sri Lanka spinners as the visitors sealed a 43-run victory to level the three-match T20I series at 1-1 at Coolidge Cricket Ground in Antigua on Friday night.
After restricting the visitors to 160 for six, the Windies batting struggled to get going and were eventually dismissed for 117 in 18.4 overs.
Tasked with chasing a challenging total, the Windies were off to a slow start, losing opener Evin Lewis (six) in the third over, bowled by Akila Dananjaya while attempting a slog sweep.
Chris Gayle (16) then launched a six and a four off Dushmantha Chameera while Lendl Simmons (21) smashed Thisara Perera for a six and three fours to put the chase back on track, but wickets kept tumbling for the hosts with both men falling to Wanindu Hasaranga De Silva in the seventh over as the Windies slipped to 49 for three.
It was soon 66 for six with Jason Holder hitting a straight six off Gunathilaka and then getting caught on the boundary off the very next ball. Chameera then struck twice in the 11th over with Dwayne Bravo getting a leading edge off to Angelo Matthews and Nicholas Pooran getting bowled playing across the line as the visitors took charge halfway through the chase.
That left skipper Kieron Pollard (13) and Fabian Allen (12) with a mountain to climb to get their team out of trouble and a six from Pollard off Hasaranga and another from Allen off Akila Dananjaya helped a bit, but the task proved too much in the end.
Obed McCoy (23 off seven balls) struck some lusty blows with the bat towards the end of the chase, but the damage was already done by the Sri Lankan spinners through the middle overs.
While the spinners completed the job for the visitors, it was the opening pair of Pathum Nissanka and Danushka Gunathilaka that put them on course for the win.
The Sri Lankans attacked a lot more, Nissanka and Gunathilaka getting the visitors off to a flying start with a 95-run opening stand which should have set the platform for an all-out assault in the back end of the innings.
Their intent was clear with Gunathilaka collecting two fours off Fidel Edwards’ first over. Nissanka took some more time to settle before joining the fun with a straight four off Jason Holder.
They scored at nine runs per over in the Powerplay with Gunathilaka smashing Holder for the first six of the innings in the final over of the Powerplay but was given a life in the same over when he was dropped by Pollard at midwicket.
The Sri Lankans made the opportunity count, smashing Obed McCoy for six over long-off before bringing up his third T20I half-century with a cut off the same bowler to the point boundary, as the visitors raced to 94 without loss after 10 overs.
With the game getting away from them the Windies needed something special get themselves back into the contest and it was veteran Bravo that stepped up and delivered.
Showing off his quick reflexes and athleticism even at the age of 37, he fielded the ball off his own bowling and throwed down the stumps at the non-striker’s end to catch Nissanka well short of the crease after the Sri Lankan opener tried to sneak a quick single. He was out for 37.
The West Indies all-rounder removed Gunathilaka (57) in the same over as the batsman sent an easy catch to Sinclair at mid-off for 56.
The double blow stemmed the flow of runs and with the pressure starting to build, Bravo made yet another breakthrough, getting the big wicket of Dinesh Chandimal (three), who was caught by Lendl Simmons after top-edging an attempted slog sweep.
Skipper Angelo Matthews also failed to get going, hitting a short wide ball from McCoy straight to Holder on the long-on boundary.
Despite their good start, the onslaught never came and after eight overs of playing the ball around, the Sri Lankans tried to finish with the flurry in the final three overs but could only manage a six off McCoy in the 18th, two fours off Bravo in the 19th and just one-off Holder in the 20th with just 66 runs coming in the second half of the innings.
In the end it proved enough with the series now set to be decided in the final match tomorrow at the same venue from 6 pm.
SRI LANKA 160-6 (20 overs) Danushka Gunathilaka 56, Pathum Nissanka 37, Ashen Bandara 21, Hasaranga de Silva 19 n.o.; Dwayne Bravo 2/25, Jason Holder 1/36, Obed McCoy 1/34) vs WEST INIDES 117 (18.4 overs) (Obed McCoy 23, Lendl Simmons 21; Lakshan Sandakan 3/10, Hasaranga de Silva 3/17, Dushmantha Chameera 2/26)
—Sri Lanka won by 43 runs