The medium built, stocky mustachioed 22-year old Wanindu Hasaranga with a spring in his step from the very first ball he takes strike to in imbibing an air of authority and control to transforming a shaky scenario into whipcord action galvanising the capacity spectators from despairing silence into a riot of colour has emerged from a few big stage appearances to be a great finisher as he took Sri Lanka from a shaky 215 for 6 wickets to an improbable fascinating 1-wicket triumph chasing down the West Indies 289 for 7 in the opening ODI against the West Indies.
Indeed, great finisher was the descriptive catch phrase as this find from Galle became an overnight hero by a 39-ball 42-run batting fireworks display, but importantly tucked with the maturity of not throwing it away as some of his much more senior colleagues had done when the game was in Sri Lanka’s favour.
It is this flair of elegance of confident, bold batsman ship with the grasp of the mission ahead that raised Hasaranga’s stock as ‘the’ player for the crunch situation; A raw and wild dash for his age, it was the overly air of tremendous confidence that set the youngster apart as he fronted the situation reeling off a six early in his innings and going on to take Sri Lanka from a nerve tingling tight rope ninth wicket battle of getting 28 runs from 27 balls in the final canter in a game 27-run partnership when Lakshan Sandakan who was run out for 3 attempting to complete the winning run.
But there was Hasaranga to the relief of his side and home crowd having cantered to the other end to deliver the winning blow in the company of last man Nuwan Pradeep. And, those who had watched the youngster a fortnight ago emerge the hero finishing it off from a similar bad situation for CCC in the Premier League final against Chilaw Marians in a scorching unbeaten knock, were to be soon to be happily convinced for Sri Lanka cricket here at the SSC that a new warrior, a finisher had arrived from the blocks to raise his hand to answer the clarion call; to put it in the right perspective in keeping with the slogan, ‘Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man.’
That Wanidu Hasaranga, with this feat galloped to the coveted Player of the Match award superseding Shai Diego Hope’s 140-ball 110, and as much insulated himself in the glory of seeing Sri Lanka notch the highest run chase at the SSC was another part of that success story. Here was a solid feat that must serve as a lesson to more seasoned batsmen in the team.
Upfront, full credit to the opening combination of young Avishka Fernando and skipper Dimuth Karunaratne who posted 111 off 18 overs. While Karunaratne played a captain’s knock of 52 off 57 inclusive of 7 boundaries setting the tempo, it was drummed up in the hectic by Avishka Fernando, another find from Moratuwa who blazed his way to 55 ball 50 packed with 5 boundaries and a six in fuelling the arrival of the new brigade.
One drop batsman Kusal Janith Perera was equal to the task scoring 42 off 50 hitting 4 boundaries. Kusal Mendis’ contribution was 20 off 25 with 2 boundaries and a six while Angelo Mathews coming at No.5 made 5 off 4 who undid himself by habit of rush of blood chasing a delivery wide off the off stump and nicking it behind.
Dhananjaya de Silva did bring his usually reliable air but miscalculated a lofted on drive when on 18 for the man in the deep to take a running catch.
Next man in Thisara Perera did greet his recall with some purposeful stroke play reminiscent of his prime nonchalant scorching shots making a 22-ball 32 filled with 4 boundaries and a six, but could not go the distance being seventh out with the total 253 in the fourth ball of the 43rd over holing a catch.
It brought the man of the hour Wanidu Hasaranga to perform his wondrous act of finishing it off for Sri Lanka. Significantly, this ODI did reflect the making of a future outfit of steel with room for utility player Dasun Shanaka too to step in as the old give way to the younger generation.
Sri Lanka 290 for 9 (50 Overs) Run rate: 5.58 (Karunaratne 52, Fernando 50, Hasaranga 42 n.o.,Joseph 3/42)
West Indies 289 for 7 (50 Overs) 5.78 (Hope 115, Bravo 52, Pradeep 3/82)
By Srian Obeyesekere