NORTH SOUND, Antigua – Diligent West Indies were facing a long, arduous toil on Wednesday’s third day after finding success hard to come by on on a lifeless pitch, leaving the decisive second Test evenly poised at the end of the second day on Tuesday.
Captain Kraigg Brathwaite had earlier completed his first century as full-time captain when he hit 126 while Rahkeem Cornwall struck his second successive half-century with a bold 73, to propel West Indies to 354 all out at the stroke of lunch at the Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium.
But Sri Lanka countered a disciplined Windies bowling effort on a track conducive for batting, to march to 136 for three at the close, 218 runs behind.
Opener Lahiru Thirimanne top-scored with 55 while veteran Dinesh Chandimal was unbeaten on 34 and partnered by Dhananjaya de Silva on 23.
The home side’s hopes were raised when they claimed Oshada Fernando (18) and Thirimanne in the space of 35 deliveries just after tea, but Chandimal and Dhananjaya ground out a 59-run, unbroken fourth wicket stand to frustrate West Indies.
Chandimal has so far faced 80 balls and counted five fours while Dhananjaya’s stay has lasted 95 deliveries and included a single boundary.
Former captain and leading all-rounder, Jason Holder, said patience would be key for West Indies’ bowlers on the third day.
“It’s been a pretty docile wicket so far. We’ve got to find ways to motivate ourselves,” he said afterwards.
“It’s a really good effort by the bowlers so far. It’s not a wicket I believe that you can just go and blast people out – it’s a pretty good wicket for batting. At the end of the day you have to be really, really patient. It’s pretty even-stevens at the moment – we’ve got two set batsmen at the crease at the moment.”
West Indies had earlier taken the initiative in the morning session courtesy of a record eighth wicket stand of 103 between Brathwaite and Cornwall.
Resuming from their overnight 287 for seven, West Indies kept the Sri Lankans wicket-less in the first hour, avoiding any early collapses while consolidating the innings.
Brathwaite, forced to sleep overnight on 99, released his tension when he reached his ninth Test hundred off the second ball of the opening over with a single to fine leg off pacer Suranga Lakmal, the best bowler with four for 94.
All told, the right-hander faced 311 deliveries in just over 8-½ hours and struck 13 fours.
Cornwall, meanwhile, on 43 at the start, brought up his fifty in the day’s third over with a streaky four behind point off Lakmal.
On 68 at the first drinks break, the burly right-hander perished in the second over following the resumption, muscling Lakmal from outside off to Vishwa Fernando at mid on after striking 10 fours and a six in an entertaining 92-ball knock which lasted a shade over 2-½ hours.
Brathwaite and Kemar Roach (9) then foiled Sri Lanka for nearly another three-quarters of an hour before seamer Dushmantha Chameera claimed the last two wickets to end the innings swiftly.
The right-armer, who ended with three for 69, removed Roach for nine to give wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella his fifth catch of the innings before getting Brathwaite to chop on a delivery which nipped back.
Beginning their innings after lunch, Sri Lanka lost their captain Dimuth Karunaratne for one to a blinder at gully by Nkrumah Bonner, to extend his poor run in the series.
The left-hander flirted with a wide ball from fast bowler Alzarri Joseph and nicked into the cordon where Bonner pulled off an absolutely stunning one-handed catch, diving away to his right at gully, 40 minutes after lunch.
Thirimanne, who hit six fours off 106 deliveries, then put on 46 for the second wicket with Fernando, a partnership that saw Sri Lanka safely to tea on 60 for one.
However, West Indies struck in the second over afterwards with four runs added, when medium pacer Kyle Mayers gained an lbw decision against Fernando.
And Roach followed up a few overs later when he pierced Thirimanne’s drive and bowled him off the inside edge, to leave Sri Lanka on 77 for three.
The closest West Indies came to a wicket thereafter was off the penultimate delivery of the day when DRS was required to acquit Dhananjaya, after he swished at a leg-side delivery from off-spinner Cornwall and nearly gifted his wicket. (CMC)
WEST INDIES 1st Innings
(overnight 287 for seven)
*K Brathwaite b Chameera 126
J Campbell c wkp Dickwella b Lakmal 5
N Bonner b Lakmal 0
K Mayers c wkp Dickwella b V Fernando 49
J Blackwood c wkp Dickwella b Lakmal 18
J Holder c Thirimanne b de Silva 30
+J Da Silva c wkp Dickwella b Chameera 1
A Joseph lbw b Embuldeniya 29
R Cornwall c V Fernando b Lakmal 73
K Roach c wkp Dickwella b Chameera 9
S Gabriel not out 1
Extras (lb6, nb7) 13
TOTAL (all out, 111.1 overs) 354
Fall of wickets: 1-11 (Campbell), 2-15 (Bonner), 3-86 (Mayers), 4-120 (Blackwood), 5-171 (Holder), 6-185 (Da Silva), 7-222 (Joseph), 8-325 (Cornwall), 9-351 (Roach), 10-354 (Brathwaite)
Bowling: Lakmal 28-11-94-4 (nb1), V Fernando 27-4-71-1, Embuldeniya 25-5-88-1 (nb5), Chameera 21.1-4-69-3, Dhananjaya 10-3-26-1 (nb1).
SRI LANKA 1st Innings
*D Karunaratne c Bonner b Joseph 1
L Thirimanne b Roach 55
O Fernando lbw b Mayers 18
D Chandimal not out 34
D de Silva not out 23
Extras (lb2, nb3) 5
TOTAL (3 wkts, 61 overs) 136
To bat: P Nissanka, +N Dickwella, S Lakmal, V Fernando, L Embuldeniya, D Chameera.
Fall of wickets: 1-18 (Karunaratne), 2-64 (Fernando), 3-77 (Thirimanne)
Bowling: Roach 12-4-39-1 (nb1), Gabriel 10-2-28-0, Joseph 10-2-31-1, Holder 12-2-20-0 (nb2), Mayers 7-4-6-1, Cornwall 9-5-8-0, Blackwood 1-0-2-0.
Position: Sri Lanka trail by 218 runs with seven first innings wickets intact.
Toss: Sri Lanka.
Umpires: G Brathwaite, J Wilson; TV – N Duguid.