Not only are the cricket fans in Jamaica considered the most opinionated and parochial,over the years theyve also been the most notorious. Back in the 70s and 80s,it was common for fans to climb over the fences and gates to get into the Sabina Park. Why bother paying for tickets. And the story goes that on one occasion,the Jamaica Cricket Association decided to throw open the gates and admit everyone in for free. But the fans were so used to jumping over fences that they continued doing so despite the free entry.
Though there werent many attempting to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors at Sabina Park on Friday morning,there was still a boisterous clamour for tickets as West Indies and Sri Lanka locked horns in the opening contest of the Celkon tri-series. Sri Lanka might not quite be the cynosure of the teams that have arrived for the tournament,and its rather the likes of Mahendra Singh Dhoni,Virat Kohli and others who are creating a buzz around the Caribbean,apart from of course the home side. But still quite a few turned up to watch the series opener even though the party stand wore an empty look.
But the few that did turn up werent disappointed as the hosts produced an impressive bowling display to dismiss the Sri Lankans for just 208 after Dwayne Bravo won the toss and elected to field. Over the years,the hugely partisan Sabina Park crowd has been used to cheering some of the most menacing fast bowlers from the West Indies put opposition batsmen from around the world under the pump and send them scurrying for cover. There arent too many of that ilk propping up in the Caribbean anymore. And the fans here have had to shift their allegiances and even if its only grudgingly,they have learned to appreciate and cheer the guiles of the likes of Sunil Narine.
The Trinidadian mystery spinner once again proved to be the oppositions scourge as he produced what is fast becoming a customary outing. He was economical as always and also ended up with a bag of wickets. And his four wickets went a long way in curbing Sri Lankas progress after the visitors got off to a solid start. That his spell of 4/40 included the wickets of both Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara only proves the impact that he had on the Sri Lankans,despite their reputation of being good players of spin.
Jayawardene in particular had set off in aggressive fashion and with a flurry of boundaries had brought up his half-century in double quick time before Narine got him in his very first over,as the right-hander got an inside-edge to an off-break that ricocheted of his pads and looped into Denesh Ramdins gloves. Sri Lanka struggled from thereon and never quite got going despite skipper Angelo Mathews fighting unbeaten 55. Ravi Rampaul proved a perfect ally for Narine and the two Trinidadians ensured that the first session of the tri-series belonged to the hosts.
Brief scores: Sri Lanka 208 all out in 48.3 overs (M Jayawardene 52,A Mathews not out 55; S Narine 4/40,R Rampaul 3/38) vs West Indies.