A fine knock from Kusal Mendis led Sri Lanka’s reply after they were set a target of 453 on the penultimate day of the first Test in Port of Spain on Saturday (June 9). Starting their chase shortly into the post-lunch session, Mendis was involved in a couple of half-century stands and remained unbeaten on 94 at Stumps, although the visitors lost three wickets during the day and Dinesh Chandimal had retired ill. Sri Lanka ended Day 4 at 176 for 3, still needing 277 more to take a lead in the three-match series.
Kusal Perera started by scoring two fours off Shannon Gabriel in the opening over of Sri Lanka’s chase before falling to the same bowler off a leading edge. Unlike the first innings, Windies weren’t able to run through the Sri Lankan top order as Chandimal and Mendis showed good application and were judicious with their shot selection. Capitalising on the loose deliveries and respecting the good ones, Chandimal and Mendis built a steady partnership to keep the Windies bowlers at bay. However, the partnership came to an abrupt halt as Chandimal appeared in some pain before the start of the 12th over, and was seen holding his head before walking off the field retiring ill.
Mendis and Mathews went into a defensive mode for the rest of the second session, ensuring that Sri Lanka did not lose any more wickets. But they were a lot more positive in the final session, scoring a flurry of boundaries to take the fight back to Windies. Mathews came down the track twice to Devendra Bishoo to score a couple of fours and struck an authoritative pull off Gabriel through the mid-on region. Mendis, meanwhile, played a pick-up shot off Roach for a six before leaning into a cover drive for a boundary.
Put down by Shane Dowrich off Bishoo, nearly run out following a mix-up with Mathews, and having changed the bat several times, Mendis went on to register a hard-fought half century. Things were going well for Sri Lanka with a measured stand between Mendis and Mathews defying the West Indian bowlers. However, an innocuous delivery from Holder brought the 74-run partnership to an end as Mathews was caught down the leg side.
The dismissal didn’t dissuade Mendis from playing his shots – having driven a Roach delivery past mid-off for a four, the opener took on a short delivery to dispatch it over fine-leg for a maximum. He scored a major portion of the runs in a half-century stand with Roshen Silva, who fell in the fag end of the day after handing a catch to Bishoo in what was a soft dismissal.
Earlier, Powell and Jason Holder, who scored the bulk of the runs on Day 4, missed out on personal milestones with the left-hander falling 12 short of a three-figure score and the Windies skipper missing a half-century by 11 runs. Nevertheless, it was a job well done as they ensured that the scoreboard did not stagnate, albeit the hosts scoring only 78 runs in the 29 overs bowled in the first session.
Suranga Lakmal bowled testing lines to Dowrich in the morning session but it was Lahiru Kumara who picked up the first wicket of the day. He trapped the first-innings centurion leg-before with slightly fuller delivery, having bowled mostly short of length before that. The short deliveries continued to serve Kumara well and he also troubled Powell but the left-hander showed enough application to hang around and scored the occasional boundaries.
The arrival of Holder aided Windies in injecting some momentum to their innings in the morning as the skipper took on the spinners in his 40-ball 39 which included four fours and a six. Windies, however, lost both Powell and Holder ahead of Lunch, and added only 18 runs in the last 12 overs before the break. Bishoo and Roach managed score quicker in the brief time that Windies batted in the post-lunch session, stretching the lead past 450 before the declaration came with the home team’s score on 223 for 7.
Brief scores: Windies 414/8 decl. & 223/7 decl. (Kieran Powell 88, Jason Holder 39; Lahiru Kumara 3-40, Rangana Herath 2-52) lead Sri Lanka 185 & 176/3 (Kusal Mendis 94*; Angelo Mathews 31; Jason Holder 1-18) by 276 runs.
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