Sri Lanka close in on parity in drama-filled day

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• Last updated on Sun, 17 Jun, 2018, 06:19 AM
Shane Dowrich stroked his sixth Test fifty.
In anger, rarely have rational decisions been taken. If not for the endless phone calls, a few wise heads in the Sri Lankan dressing room and endless patience shown by the match officials, the second Test between West Indies and Sri Lanka – and with it possibly even the series – would have been in jeopardy.
At the start of Day 3, Sri Lanka were accused of altering the condition of the ball and five penalty runs were awarded to the Windies. Javagal Srinath, the match referee, made endless visits to the Sri Lankan dressing room and to the umpires in order to persuade them to continue with the game. The happenings at the start of the day pushed the cricket, which was struggling to gain front row attention anyhow, safely to the backseat. It could have gotten a lot worse, but for all that happened, the incident at Gros Islet on Saturday will still become a part of multiple re-telling in the years to come, and the ‘leadership group’ would likely be asked – ‘do you regret your action/decision?’


In all the drama, a game that was struggling to make up overs lost due to multiple spells of shower, was delayed by two hours more before Sri Lanka eventually agreed to play ‘in protest’. And when they came, they were pumped up. Lahiru Kumara welcomed Devon Smith with three consecutive bouncers. Niroshan Dickwella made a desperate appeal for a run out when the left-hander stepped out to tap his bat after the ball was dead. With all of this coming out in the first over of the day, umpire Ian Gould had a strong word with both the Lankan players.
Game timings were rescheduled and the first session continued to be as dour as it was on Friday. Shai Hope and Devon Smith began cautiously against a testing spell of bowling by Lahiru Kumara and Suranga Lakmal. In the 13 overs of play before Lunch, only a solitary wicket fell when steep bounce had Hope edging a fend Lakmal delivery to slips.


The post Lunch session, despite a rain break finally witnessed adequate cricket. It was marked by a 78-run stand between Roston Chase and Shane Dowrich, and wickets falling on either end of the period. Smith, who had batted through more than four sessions, had only progressed to 61 before eventually getting trapped by a straighter one from Akila Dananjaya soon after Lunch.
Nonetheless, the fourth-wicket stand laid the foundation to the innings. The ‘keeper-batsman, unlike the other Windies batters, displayed a more dynamic approach to batting and played his shots fearlessly after biding a healthy 40 minutes in the middle. He stepped out to tonk Dananjaya, the least impressive of the Sri Lankan bowlers, for a six straight down the ground and followed it by slashing a short-pitched delivery for a boundary through point in the 70th over. The 14-run over helped Windies bring up their 200. However, Chase who had constructed a fine 41 fell as soon as the second new ball was taken in the 81st over. The extra bounce generated by Kumara had him edging a leg-flick to the midwicket fielder.
The game seemed well-controlled by the hosts in the first two sessions. But, soon after Tea, once Dowrich brought up his sixth Test fifty and Windies went past Sri Lanka’s first innings total, the batsmen became casualties to casualness. Unlike the ultra-cautious and watchful approach they had displayed till that point, they began fishing outside the offstump and gifting their wickets away.


Wickets fell quickly after Tea, with their last six falling for only 59 runs – as they were shot down for 300 after being at 241 for 4 at one point. Kumara was the wrecker-in-chief, bagging 4 for 86. It still may not be a true reflection of the way he bowled and troubled the batters, but it did prove effective for Sri Lanka, who ended up conceding only a 47-run lead. Kasun Rajitha bowled another fine spell of swing bowling and bagged two late wickets to return figures of 3 for 49 on his debut outing in Tests. The fact that they conceded 29 extra runs, apart from the 5-run penalty, did not help their cause much.
In response, Mahela Udawatte and Kusal Perera began wiping off the deficit in contrasting manners. The latter threw his bat at deliveries outside off and earned three boundaries before eventually edging one of Shannon Gabriel’s delivery to the ‘keeper late in the day. Udawatte, who was dismissed for a duck in his debut innings, stayed unbeaten and went to stumps at 11. Sri Lanka managed to score 34 runs in the nine overs of play possible in the innings, and reduced the deficit to 13.
Brief Scores: Sri Lanka 253& 34/1 trail Windies 300 (Devon Smith 61, Shane Dowrich 55; Lahiru Kumara 4-86, Kasun Rajitha 3-49) by 13 runs