A lot of time in the second Test was lost due to rain and poor light, but somehow the game managed to hold interest even going into the final session of play, with Sri Lanka pushing for a win, and Windies looking to hold on to a draw. It was a matter of five wickets, before one final spell of rain and poor lights came to halt the game in spaced intervals, and allowed Windies succeed in their motive. And thus, with the final position of the game – Windies 147 for 5, two decisions by the Sri Lankans come to the fore of discussion.
1) Did Dinesh Chandimal make a mistake by not declaring the second innings overnight?
2) Will he rue the two-hour period lost due to Sri Lanka’s reluctance to take field on Day 3?
In hindsight, all these questions make for good discussions, but in reality, Sri Lanka have lost the opportunity of winning the series, and go in to the final Test trailing the hosts 0-1.
For the first time in five days it seemed that there will be uninterrupted play. And led by a dramatic first one and a half hour of play on Day 5, the game had reached an interesting position. Resuming the day on 334 for 8, Sri Lanka were bowled out early with Shannon Gabriel bagging the last two wickets. He finished with 8 for 62 in the innings, and match figures of 13 for 121 – the third best by a West Indian, and the best at home. In the process, he also bagged his 100th Test wicket. Gabriel for the second time in the innings got a wicket off a no ball when he overstepped while castling Akila Dananjaya. Nonetheless, he got the job done for his team in the same over, and Sri Lanka were bowled out for 342.
Needing 295 for a win, Windies were going to be stuck between going for a win and playing for a draw. But a couple of early strikes by Kasun Rajitha cleared that confusion for them. Devon Smith was teased into a drive and was caught at slip, while Kieran Powell flicked his second delivery straight to the square leg fielder to reduce Windies to 8 for 2 in the chase. Windies had to save the game first.
Shai Hope looked good in the middle but his innings came to an abrupt pause when a 148kmph delivery by Lahiru Kumara rose sharply and hit his ribs. He had to go back retired. He did come back to resume his innings two wickets later and forged a crucial 51-run stand with Kraigg Brathwaite which proved crucial in Windies’ bid to play for a draw.
But during the period in which he was out injured Roston Chase and Shane Dowrich combined to bat out close to 15 overs. It wasn’t the most impressive passage of batting, but effective nonetheless. Kumara had Chase struggling against his searing pace before a Suranga Lakmal delivery which nipped back in had him castled less than five minutes before the Lunch break. Soon after Lunch, Dowrich was undone by Akila Dananjaya. The ‘keeper got himself in an awkward position and squared himself up while playing a delivery that spun and bounced more than usual to edge a catch to slips.
Brathwaite, who had dropped anchor early, got slower in the post Lunch session, scoring only 12 runs in the two-hour period. Hope, on the other hand, displayed a far more authoritative display of batting against the older ball which wasn’t aiding the pacers as it had been earlier.
Hope’s innings promised a lot but was cut short soon after Tea by a similar delivery from Lakmal that had accounted for the wicket of Chase. Jason Holder held on in company of Brathwaite, who yet again displayed the power of his patience with a four-and-a-half-hour vigil, to help Windies see through to a draw. The opener, in the process of his 172-ball stay, stroked his 17th Test fifty and remained unbeaten on 59.
Gabriel, for his fine returns with the ball, was adjudged Player of the Match.
And the drama isn’t to end here. Ian Gould, who had quite a disappointing match as an on-field umpire, will have another of his decisions reviewed. Javagal Srinath, the match referee will come out with an official statement on the ball-tampering allegations leveled against Sri Lanka after the Test.
Brief Scores: Sri Lanka 253 & 342 (Kusal Mendis 87, Niroshan Dickwella 62; Shannon Gabriel 8-62, Kemar Roach 2-78) drew with Windies 300 & 147/5 (Kraigg Brathwaite 59*; Kasun Rajitha 2-23, Suranga Lakmal 2-48)
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