Dimuth Karunaratne, Pathum Nissanka and Dhananjaya de Silva frustrate West Indies
Chief Scores :Sri Lanka 267 for 3 (Karunaratne 132*, de Silva 56*, Nisaanka 56 Chase 2/42
Dimuth Karunaratne kneeled down in the tricky first session, scored more confidently in the afternoon, and then pressed home Sri Lanka’s advantage in the evening, to go to stumps at 132 off 265 balls in his first Test since May.Pathum Nissanka and Dhananjaya De Silva made contrasting fifties, to help their captain saved the day with big stands. On a surface that is expected to dry out and take turn by day three, Sri Lanka’s 267 for 3 represents a substantial advantage for the hosts.
West Indies will lament for a number of close and missed chances, none greater than the dropped catch off Karunaratne when he was on 14.Burly Rahkeem Cornwall who perhaps laid Karunaratne through his greatest test of the innings with his first spell, got a ball to take the outside edge as the batter endeavoured to open the face. It flew just wide of the wicketkeeper’s gloves, and at a catchable height to the right of slip. Jermaine Blackwood could not get two hands to the ball, though, and grassed it.
Offspin was West Indies’ most effective weapon on day one, with Roston Chase removing Oshada Fernando and Angelo Mathews, both for 3 each, after tea. Their best bowler, however, was Jason Holder, who delivered eight maiden overs in his total of 14, and troubled Mathews so constantly that it triggered the batter to take a lethal gamble against Chase.
Shannon Gabriel, who was controversially chosen over Kemar Roach for this Test, was the other bowler to take a wicket, when he had Nissanka chasing a wide delivery, to nick to first slip approximately midway through the middle session batting for almost three hours ,a very creditable feat for somewhat of a novice playing only his second test . Gabriel was expensive, though, seeping 56 runs from his 12 overs. Both vanguard spinners – Cornwall and left-armer Jomel Warrican – also delivered good spells, specifically in the morning, when the pitch had a slight bite.
The pitch is a good batting pitch. Not much been there for the fast bowlers. The ball was spinning a little bit early on with the moisture that the wicket had on, but after lunch it settled down. We took the second new ball, but I still think it’s a pitch where we need to be patient. On this track it’ll take a little more time to take the batters’ wickets. We need to be disciplined in our lines and lengths, and back it up in the field. Patience was the key.
Karunaratne got to fifty soon after lunch, and had a second mild slice of fortune soon after, when he hit one low in the air through the legs of bowler Cornwall, who was not quick enough to get down to the possible catch. But the remainder of his innings was largely fuss-free. He used the depth of the crease to punish spinners who pitched too short, and although his first attempt at a reverse sweep had prompted a big lbw appeal, he got better with that shot through the course of the day. Karunaratne did get stuck in the nineties for 29 balls, but that was largely the doing of Holder’s immaculate line and length. The hundred, which came off 212 deliveries, was the 13th of his career, and his fourth this year – his previous four innings having brought 66, 118, 244 and 75.
Karunaratne’s most fruitful stand of the day was with Nissanka, who hit 56 off 140 balls. The pair made 139 together, which was a Sri Lankan record for the first wicket against West Indies. Although Karunaratne was restrained through the first session, Nissanka had been even more so, having been promoted to the top of the innings due to the elected absence of Lahiru Thirimanne.
Late in the day, after West Indies’ dry bowling had brought them two wickets, de Silva came in at No. 5 and livened up the place, as he often does. He creamed his fourth ball behind point for four, came down the track against the spinners and hit them aerially down the ground, swept effectively, square drove, and reached his ninth Test fifty off the 62nd ball he faced.
West Indies took the second new ball late in the day, but could not make a breakthrough before bad light stopped play two overs short of what would have constituted a full day.