Not for the first time, and not for the second either, Dinesh Chandimal played a lone hand in challenging conditions to bail Sri Lanka out from a precarious situation and take them to a respectable score. On a wicket where sharp bounce had most of the batsmen struggling, Chandimal composed a fine unbeaten 119, and took the visitors to 253.
But for most parts of the day, while Chandimal held strong at his end, Windies bowlers kept picking away from the other. Shannon Gabriel was the wrecker-in-chief, bagging his third Test fifer. With pace and sharp bounce on offer, he made good use of the conditions and troubled the batsmen. For as notorious as he has been for bowling no balls, he didn’t overstep even once through the course of the opening day.
The most torrid of the spells by the Windies came in the first half an hour of play after Sri Lanka asked them to field. Kemar Roach bowled three maidens in his first four, while Gabriel struck twice during this period. Sri Lanka, who had made four changes to the side, handed maiden caps to Mahela Udawatte and Kasun Rajitha. While, the latter played a crucial hand lower down the order, the former was dismissed for a second-ball duck opening the innings. The ball rose sharply, got the outside edge of his bat and landed safely in the lands of Jason Holder at slips. The manner of his dismissal became a pattern that continued through the course of their innings.
Dhanajaya de Silva, too fell quickly, looking to fend a delivery that rose steep. The ball got the inside edge of his bat and hit the stumps. He hurt his elbow in the process and looked in deep pain. Reports coming later in the day suggested that it was only a bruise and he hadn’t sustained a serious injury.
Perera, who was uncharacteristically slow to begin his innings, picked his tempo and soon hit Holder for three consecutive boundaries to help Sri Lanka past 50. He fell soon after and had the visitors reduced to 59 for 3 in the morning session. Chandimal and Mendis forged what proved to be the most successful partnership of the innings, when Windies dropped their intensity. Getting carried away by the extra bounce, Miguel Cummins and Holder bowled far too many short-pitched deliveries, and often erratic in line. What the hosts had erred in figuring out was that it was the rising deliveries from length which was causing greater damage than the shorter-pitched ones. Even a bit of sloppiness helped Sri Lanka’s cause as they marched on to add 67 runs for the fourth wicket.
Much like Perera, Niroshan Dickwella too was forced to hold his guard and curb his natural instinct to attack. His patience was tested for long before he eventually fell for the trap and went fishing outside the offstump. Akila Dananjaya and Suranga Lakmal followed soon after as Chandimal’s showcase of patience went unnoticed. From 179 for 5, Sri Lanka were reduced to 206 for 8.
With the end nearing, the Sri Lankan skipper began farming strike. Rajitha ended up getting more balls to face than he would’ve liked, but he gave a good account of his resilience. Chandimal attacked towards the end with good effect and helped Sri Lanka past the 250-run mark. He was caught off a no-ball later in the day but it didn’t matter much as the Sri Lankan innings folded only two balls later. What he did do well, however, is make good use of the dropped catch at slips by Devon Smith, while batting on 14. Kemar Roach, who bagged three of the last four wickets to fall, finished with figures of 4 for 49.
Windies batted only two overs in the day, and went to stumps on 2 for no loss.
Brief Scores: Sri Lanka 253 (Dinesh Chandimal 119*, Kusal Mendis 45; Shannon Gabriel 5-59, Kemar Roach 4-49) lead Windies 2/0
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