When Sunil Narine has the ball in his hand things tend to happen in the middle. Sri Lanka is a team which knows that. In the final of the previous edition of the World T20 in Colombo, Narine finished with figures of three for nine to help West Indies defend 137.
On Wednesday, Narine returned four for 24, three of those wickets coming in one over – the sixteenth of this practice game. This was also an over in which the off-spinner, ranked the No.1 T20 bowler in the world, showed why he can be a tricky customer towards the end of a Twenty20 innings when the asking rate is climbing and the batsmen are targeting the stands.
Before being brought on for the second time in the innings, Narine had bowled two overs – the sixth and eight of the innings – while Kumar Sangakkara and Thilakaratne Dilshan were on strike. He conceded nine runs in 12 balls and could have dismissed Sangakkara if Andre Russell had held on to a difficult catch.
When Narine was reintroduced into the attack, Sri Lanka needed 68 off 30 balls. Narine removed three batsmen – Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera – all capable of lusty blows. He could have scalped four if he hadn’t overstepped.
Chandimal mistimed a slog and was caught on the long-on boundary in the second delivery of the sixteenth over. Mathews stayed back and attempted to hit Narine to the on side. The ball was flatter and Mathews missed the line and it crashed into the stumps.
Both Chandimal and Mathews had succumbed to the pressure of a high asking rate. Such scenarios play into Narine’s hands. He has variations up his sleeve but the batsmen can’t afford to get their eye in or even play him out.
Nuwan Kulasekara was another such batsmen to fall prey to Narine. He tried to drive but couldn’t get bat on ball and was stumped in the same over. The West Indians were confident of the appeal but the television umpire didn’t have to go as far as the final frames of the replay because Narine had overstepped.
The free-hit delivery crashed into the stump off Kulasekara’s leg. An edge off the next delivery allowed Kulasekara to scamper through for a single. This put Thisara Perera on strike. Perera tried to play the ball fine, but it spun and hit him on the back leg. The umpire ruled in the bowler’s favour.
Narine had taken three wickets for just four runs. He was to take another one, that of Kulasekara who tried to play across the line in his last over, the nineteenth of the innings. At continued…