(BBC) West Indies took a big step towards the semi-finals of the World Twenty20 with a seven-wicket win over Sri Lanka.
Darren Sammy’s men produced a superb performance with the ball to restrict Sri Lanka to 122-9, with Samuel Badree taking 3-12 and Dwayne Bravo 2-20.
Only Thisara Perera, who hit 40 off 29 balls, offered any resistance.
Andre Fletcher – opening the batting in the absence of the injured Chris Gayle – blasted an unbeaten 84 off 64 balls in a largely straightforward chase.
Gayle left the field during the Sri Lanka innings because of a pulled hamstring, meaning he was denied the opportunity to bat.
It’s a second victory for West Indies, who beat England by six wickets on Wednesday, and they will qualify for the last four if they beat South Africa on Friday.
Defending champions Sri Lanka face a battle to advance, and their match against England in Delhi on Saturday now looms large, with the loser likely to be eliminated.
Brilliant Badree puts Sri Lanka in a spin
After their batsmen put England to the sword on a flat track in Mumbai, the West Indies demonstrated great versatility to record a completely different type of victory on a more-spin friendly pitch in Bengaluru.
The Sri Lanka innings was evenly poised at 32-2 after the six Powerplay overs when leg-spinner Badree took over.
First of all he induced Lahiru Thirimanne to spoon a drive to point, then he enticed Chamara Kapugedera to come down the track and had him stumped.
The 35-year-old – who hadn’t played an international match in almost two years before this tournament – completed a superb spell of bowling by having Milinda Siriwardana caught at slip.
With West Indies spinner Sunil Narine, the world’s number one-ranked T20 bowler, not playing in this tournament, Badree could have a vital role to play if West Indies progress further.
Flashy Fletcher justifies his place
Fletcher, 28, didn’t play in the first game against England, but was brought into the side at the expense of bowler Jerome Taylor.
The Grenadian was slated to bat at four but was then moved up the order due to Gayle’s injury.
Batting with a fluency that eluded everyone else, the right-hander struck six fours and five sixes, scoring predominantly in front of square on the leg side.
He weathered the loss of three partners in becoming the second West Indian opener in consecutive matches to bat through.
The West Indies selectors now face a dilemma if Gayle returns to fitness: whether to preserve the current opening partnership of Gayle and Johnson Charles or pair Fletcher with Gayle at the top of the order.
Gayle no-show disappoints crowd
Many in the capacity crowd in Bengaluru had come to see Gayle, who plays for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League.
And when he failed to show up at the start of the West Indies innings, they responded with a chant of “We want Gayle! We want Gayle!”
Thereafter, the fall of each wicket brought momentary elation, then disappointment for the crowd as their hero remained in the dressing-room.
When the third wicket of Denesh Ramdin fell, Gayle finally appeared on the boundary in his pads and helmet – only for match official Ian Gould to drag him back.
If a player leaves the field during the fielding innings, he must wait an equivalent amount of time before coming out to bat.
However, Gayle would have been able to come out at the fall of a fourth wicket – only for the third umpire to overturn a caught-behind decision against Fletcher, before Nuwan Kulasekara somehow spilled a simple catch.
What they said
West Indies captain Darren Sammy: “We’ve always had close battles with Sri Lanka. It was good to see the way we bowled.
“The way Fletcher batted was brilliant. He is an opener. He was picked in the original squad, but Johnson Charles got the nod. That’s what you want, someone to have an impact.
“I hope Chris Gayle is OK, but what today showed is that it’s not a one-man show. It was ideal for him to not bat. We were shaky in the middle period, but Fletcher stepped up to show we have 15 potential match-winners.”
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews: “It was a tough day. I thought we were 20 to 30 runs short and we were horrible in the field. It might have been close if we held out catches.
“The middle order let us down, losing wicket after wicket. We had to reassess as soon as it started turning.”