Chasing a hefty target of 339, West Indies almost managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat with a spectacular chase effort against Sri Lanka at Chester-le-Street in the World Cup. At the centre of that meteoric effort was 23-year-old Nicholas Pooran, who scored his maiden century for West Indies and led by example, showing all that the future of his nation’s cricket was is in safe hands.
Well played @nicholas_47 quality player....am sure first of many International Hundreds for the @windiescricket— Mike Hesson (@CoachHesson) July 1, 2019
Very good day for @lionsdenkxip fans, first @mayankcricket and now Pooran. Well done lads 👏👏👏
Great fight by Pooran to keep West Indies in a game that looked lost. Some serious talent in this team. #RALLY— Peter Miller (@TheCricketGeek) July 1, 2019
Pooran, who represents Kings XI Punjab in the VIVO Indian Premier League, came to the crease with the score reading 71/3 in the 16th over as Chris Gayle made his exit for 35. Almost immediately, West Indies then lost Shimron Hetmyer and were in all sorts of trouble. Nevertheless, Pooran steadied the ship alongside captain Jason Holder and got the Windies back into the contest.
The 23-year-old started off slowly, piercing the gaps for singles and doubles without taking any untoward risks. He put on an 84-run partnership with Holder before the skipper departed. That wicket did not unsettle Pooran though, as he continued the aggression with new man Carlos Braithwaite.
After a 54-run stand, Braithwaite was dismissed but Fabian Allen replaced the all-rounder, scoring a quickfire half century while Pooran began playing the anchor role in the partnership, showing his versatility. The duo added 83 runs for the sixth wicket, clawing their way back into the contest as they got the asking rate down to under nine with the last powerplay to go.
Allen was run out for 51 but Pooran still had plenty in the tank, as he decided to switch gears after a neat flick to mid-wicket got him his maiden century in professional cricket. The youngster smashed 24 runs in the next couple of overs, which included a majestic hoick over square leg off Isuru Udana’s bowling.
Some spectacular hitting reduced the equation to 31 off the last three, but all-rounder Angelo Mathews managed to outfox the youngster; and sent him packing after he had scored 118 runs at a strike rate well over a hundred. Pooran’s wicket practically ended the chase as the tail couldn't cope with the Sri Lankan pace battery as the Asian side emerged victorious by 23 runs in the end.
"Credit to Nicholas. He played an outstanding innings," West Indies captain Jason Holder said. "He batted maturely. He got boundaries, knocked it around as easily as he can.
"What I have seen here of Nicholas Pooran in this entire World Cup is not surprising to me," Holder added. "What he's produced here is exactly what we expected him to produce. We have selected him for a reason, and we give him full backing and confidence to go out and play the game he knows he needs to play.
"I expect big things from him. He has got the talent and ability to change gears. He's very skilled, he can improvise and he's got pretty much every shot in the locker."
Despite ending on the losing side, Nicholas Pooran played a knock to remember and showed a lot of promise for the future of West Indies cricket. He smashed 11 fours and four sixes in that knock, to emerge as his nation’s leading run scorer in the competition at a staggering average of over 50. Following on from a splendid IPL season, Pooran has managed to now capture the World stage and could be a true world-beater for the Caribbean in the years to follow.