Star power not quite enough to carry West Indies to a win

July 1, 2019

DURHAM, England (AP) — Fabian Allen revels in a bit of razzmatazz, and with Rihanna in the house he tried to make the most of it.

Nicholas Pooran was playing the support act, scoring his first one-day international century to dig West Indies out of serious trouble in a Cricket World Cup chase against Sri Lanka on Monday. Allen had the spotlight, a 30-ball half-century cameo containing seven boundaries and a six down the ground that drew Rihanna to her feet.

The stage was set for a comeback victory, until a mix up cost Allen his wicket and ended an 83-run partnership just as Sri Lanka was starting to panic.

Allen had to be the fall guy, he knew, considering Pooran was one run shy of a milestone 100 at the time. And so he couldn't turn his teammate back, he took off late to the non-striker's end, and wasn't even close to making it to safety. He walked off unhappily prodding his bat into the turf, later saying it was the turning point that led to West Indies losing by 23 runs.

It was a pivotal moment, but he couldn't say he cost West Indies the game by getting out for 51. He helped get them closer to victory than they were at 199-6 chasing 339. His was one of three runouts in the innings, compounding some shots that more senior batsmen would prefer not to have played.

Despite the result, Rihanna visited the players in their changing room.

West Indies captain Jason Holder, also from Rihanna's homeland of Barbados, said her appearance in Riverside stadium was a pleasant surprise.

"It was great to see her here. I just want to personally thank her for coming out," he said. "It's not easy for a celebrity to come down to Durham to watch the West Indies play but I'm sure the boys felt her presence in the stands. And she came down to the dressing room as well and met quite a few of the players, and that was also refreshing."

Allen said he was more confident with the superstar singer in support, and was especially disappointed the team couldn't deliver a win.

"She's gorgeous. Rihanna is always my favorite," he said. "It was good to meet her."

It wasn't the primary motivating factor, but it didn't hurt. Allen and Pooran are two of the young players West Indies will rely on to take the game forward in a region which has produced many of cricket's greatest players but hasn't won the World Cup since 1979.

After staying on the sidelines waiting for his turn during the tournament, Allen seized his opportunity with an athletic caught-and-bowled and an energetic innings.

"Once I got on the field. I want the camera be on me!" he said, laughing. "I'm going to do the kind of stuff to make the camera be on me. So I'm going to slide around the field, cheer on everyone. So people are going to love me."

The 24-year-old Allen was playing only his second World Cup game, and the 23-year-old Pooran was playing his eighth in the elite tournament and ninth ODI overall.

The pair played together at junior level and in Twenty20 cricket, so were confident their partnership could carry them past Sri Lanka's total of 338-6.

"Just disappointed for us today. So close to winning the game," said Pooran, who was out in the 48th over for 118. "A century was never on my mind — winning the game was on my mind.

"When Fabian and I batted, we were in control. It was going easily. Unfortunately that runout there, I felt a bit responsible."

Holder praised the young players, and said there's been plenty of promise shown in other performances throughout the tournament.

One win from eight games maybe doesn't reflect how close West Indies has been in some games, with very near misses against Australia, New Zealand and now Sri Lanka.

"Yeah, that seems to be a trend here in this World Cup for us," Holder said. "It's disappointing, definitely disappointing to come so close on a number of occasions and not get over the line."

The last group game against Afghanistan on Thursday is a last chance to start putting a complete performance together, he said, and move into the next phase.

"In terms of talent we have, we have just got to find ways to manage it," he said. "Put things in place to make sure that they are developing."

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