Pollard hits six sixes in an over and WI win after Dhananjaya’s hat-trick
COOLIDGE – Action-packed, mind-boggling, entertaining, nerve-jangling and tension-filled are all adjectives that can be used to describe the return of international cricket to the Caribbean after a one-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an electrifying chase of a modest target of 132, West Indies captain Kieron Pollard defied a hat-trick from leg-spinner Akila Dhanajaya and became only the third batsman to hit six sixes in an over in a Twenty20 International to give his side a 1-0 lead in the three-match series against Sri Lanka.
Pollard looked like a man on a mission when he marched to the crease with his side 52 for three in the fourth over, after Dhananjaya removed the left-handed trio of Evin Lewis for 28, along with Chris Gayle and Nicholas Pooran for first-ball ducks with successive deliveries.
Things became more treacherous for Windies, when Lendl Simmons was lbw for 26 sweeping at a delivery from leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga next over and the home team were wobbling on 62 for four at the end of the Power Play after the fifth over.
But Pollard, the Player-of-the-Match award-winner, transformed the complexion of the match with an explosive array of strokes in the sixth over to put the Caribbean side firmly on track for a four-wicket win over the Sri Lankans in the first T20I at the Coolidge Cricket Ground in Antigua.
Pollard launched Dhananjaya over mid-wicket for his first six, lofted him straight for his second, cleared long-off for his third, cleared mid-wicket again with a slog/sweep and played a stroke akin to a tennis forehand smash over long-on for his fifth six before he whipped the final delivery of the leg-spinner’s third over onto the mound at square leg.
“After the third six, I felt that I could hit six sixes,” Pollard said in a post-match TV interview. “We played a number of the West Indies Suepr50 Cup matches at this ground and so I knew how the pitch would play, the ball was hard, and a few guys were out.
“I just came out and backed myself in the same way I did during the Super50 to clear the boundaries instead of just prodding, prodding, prodding. It was something the team needed at that point in time.”
He added: “In the brief time between the fifth and sixth six, a lot went through my mind. Do I survive the rest of the over because I have already gotten 30, or do I just continue? I knew I had (Dhananjaya) on the back-foot and he went around the wicket, which was a little difficult for him to try to bowl the ball in front of me.
“Once I connected, and with the breeze, I said, ‘You know what, Polly, take the chance’. I would have been damned if I did and damned if I don’t, and that’s the way I play my cricket, especially with spinners bowling. It came off (this time). Unfortunately, I did not go on, but most importantly, we got the victory.”
West Indies needed 34 more from the final 84 balls of the match at this stage, but Pollard and Fabian Allen were trapped lbw off successive balls in the following over from Hasaranga to add a further wrinkle.
Jason Holder eased the tension with a straight six off the first ball of the eighth over from Dhananjaya, but he was very fortunate that T20I newcomer Ashen Bandara spilled a sitter at deep mid-wicket off the next delivery with him on nine.
Holder knuckled down and shared 33 – unbroken – for the seventh wicket with Dwayne Bravo to carry Windies over the finish line, formalising the result with a six over long-on off pacer Nuwan Pradeep with 41 balls remaining.
Hasaranga ended with three for 12 from his allotted four overs and Dhananjaya took three for 62 from his four overs.
“This was a great advertisement for cricket,” Pollard said about the match. “It was bizarre, but credit goes to our bowlers, after we won the toss and put Sri Lanka in to bat and restricted them to 131, I thought was a fantastic effort. Ten out of ten times, you will expect to get it.
“We back ourselves in any situation, but we will go back and look at the dismissals. We have an idea now what the challenge will be throughout the series and we will have to try and combat that and continue to come out on top.”
Earlier, West Indies brought things back under control after a 51-run stand for the second wicket between left-handed opener Niroshan Dickwella and top-scorer Pathum Nissanka.
Off-spinner Kevin Sinclair snared his first T20I wicket on debut, when Pollard swooped to his right to clutch a catch to dismiss Danushka Gunathilaka for four in the third over.
But Windies were made to toil, when Nissanka linked up with Dickwella and started to pepper the small square boundaries with a deft touches.
Holder made the breakthrough, when he bowled Dickwella for 33 in the 10th over and Allen had Nissanka stumped two overs later for 39 to put the host back in control.
Left-arm pacer Obed McCoy finished with two for 25 from his allotted four overs to be the most successful West Indies bowler and Sri Lanka could not find a spark the rest of the way.
The second T20I will be contested on Friday at the same venue, where the series concludes on Sunday.
SRI LANKA 131 for nine off 20 overs (Pathum Nissanka 39, Niroshan Dickwella 33, Wanindu Hasaranga 12, Dinesh Chandimal 11, Ashen Bandara 10; Obed McCoy 2-25).
WEST INDIES 134 for six for 13 overs (Kieron Pollard 38, Jason Holder 29 not out, Evin Lewis 28, Lendl Simmons 26; Wanindu Hasaranga 3-12, Akila Dhananjaya 3-62 including a hat-trick).