SRI LANKA’S TOUR OF WEST INDIES, 2021
Chandimal and de Silva put on 59 runs for the unbroken fourth-wicket stand. © AFP
Lahiru Thirimanne’s ninth Test fifty and an unbroken 59-run stand between Dinesh Chandimal and Dhananjaya de Silva were at the forefront of Sri Lanka’s fightback as the visitors ended Day 2 of the second Test in Antigua on 136 for 3. That was in response to West Indies’ first innings score of 354 after the hosts had batted the entire morning session to stretch their score by 67 runs via a determined eight-wicket stand worth 103 between Kraigg Brathwaite and Rahkeem Cornwall.
On a slow-moving day where only 203 runs were scored for six wickets across the two innings, the teams were even-stevens by Stumps even though both appeared to have nudged ahead at different points of play during the day.
Sri Lanka’s reply started on a bitter-sweet note. On one hand was the confidence of Thirimanne, who kicked off with a pristine drive through mid-off for four and hardly seemed fazed in his 106-ball stay barring an edge that safely flew wide off the man at gully. And on the other hand was Dimuth Karunaratne, who bagged yet another failure – trying to drive away from his body and offering a thick edge that was plucked brilliantly in a one-handed, diving effort from Nkrumah Bonner to give Alzarri Joseph his first wicket of the game.
The Thirimanne-Oshada Fernando partnership was only worth 46, of which the latter contributed just 18, but it keep West Indies at bay for the remainder of the post-Lunch session. The duo’s patience was thoroughly tested but they refused to take any unnecessary risks on a wicket that otherwise had very little assistance for the bowlers. West Indies, too, did not budge – offering no freebies whatsoever, bowling 12 maidens in 28-over session, and maintaining tight lines and lengths throughout.
Thirimanne looked at ease, but the bowling attack managed to pose more than a few questions to Fernando by consistently pitching it on the fourth-stump line. He lucked out twice on close LBW calls as well – batting on 14 and 16 respectively – surviving courtesy the on-field umpire’s original call of not-out. Holder was the first to review, not entirely convinced when his loud appeal was stuck down as the batsman missed his flick and took a hit on his front pad. The ball-tracking showed it just about clipping leg. Kyle Mayers challenged the next one when Fernando shouldered arms and wore it on the pads again. The ball would have hit the top of off, then.
Sri Lanka went to Tea with an upper hand but it all came undone in under eight overs into the final session where West Indies managed to send back both the set batsmen and snatch the control back. Mayers opened his account finally as the hosts got third-time lucky in their LBW appeal against Fernando. Even an instant review couldn’t save the Sri Lankan who was beaten defending the inswinging delivery that pinned him on the pads, and would have gone to clip the top of leg stump. The original call stood, like twice before, except this time Fernando had been giving marching orders after a laboured 18.
Thirimanne record his third fifty on the trot in the series soon after, but the celebrations were cut short by Roach who was rewarded for persisting with the around the wicket line of attack against the opener. In an unfortunate end to his sublime knock, Thirimanne ended up dragging a ball onto his stumps, trying to drive a length delivery coming into the batsman.
Chandimal and de Silva then combined for an unbeaten fifty partnership to see off the rest of the day without any fuss. They defended the good balls, and Chandimal punished the loose ones to pick five boundaries in his unbeaten 34. It also helped that West Indies’ bowling lack venom in the final hour. They did lose a review pursuing a caught=behind appeal off de Silva off the penultimate ball, but the mysterious faint spike failed to convince the third umpire with a daylight between bat and ball evident on a side angle.
Earlier in the day, West Indies, and Brathwaite, made Sri Lanka toil for nearly two hours for the three remaining wickets. That meant the home team’s captain batted for four full sessions and 111.1 overs for his 126 off 311 deliveries that paved way for West Indies’ strong finish despite once being in spot of bother at 222 for 7 last evening.
The unbeaten pair overnight, Brathwaite and Cornwall both reached their milestones early on the second morning – Brathwaite raising his first Test century as West Indies skipper and Cornwall, the aggressor in the 103-run stand for the eighth wicket, registering back-to-back fifties in the series. The pair took the hosts past 300-run mark in a slow-moving first hour where Cornwall did most of the scoring and Brathwaite, typically, dropped anchor at the other end.
And expectedly Cornwall fell first, trying one too many shots and miscuing a length ball from Lakmal straight to mid-off give the pacer his fourth scalp of the innings. Not before he’d helped himself to a career-best 73, though. Keemar Roach replaced him in the middle, and together with Brathwaite, he added to Sri Lanka’s frustration by sticking to the crease for almost 10 overs for his nine before edging one off Dushmantha Chameera to Dickwella behind the stumps, who pouched his fifth of the innings. Brathwaite was the last man to fall, dragging an inside edge onto his stumps at the stroke of Lunch – fending with the last wicket, trying to up the ante once West Indies had ticked off the 350-run milestone.
Brief scores: Sri Lanka 136/3 (Lahiru Thirimanne 55, Dinesh Chandimal 34*; Alzarri Joseph 1-31) trail West Indies by 218 runs.