PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – West Indies struck a crucial blow in the penultimate over of the fourth day when they prised out Roshen Silva cheaply, further enhancing their chances of winning the opening Test against Sri Lanka here yesterday.
Needing to produce a record run chase after being set a mammoth target of 453, Sri Lanka ended on 176 for three, requiring a further 277 runs on today’s final day in order to win the intriguing contest at Queen’s Park Oval.
Though Windies remained the odds-on favourites, Sri Lanka were left with a glimmer of hope, courtesy of an unbeaten 94 from stylish opener Kusal Mendis.
The right-hander has taken the attack to the Windies in a compact innings that has so far lasted 186 balls and just over 3-3/4 hours, and included nine fours and two sixes.
Handed a life on 42 when he was dropped by wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich off leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo, Mendis carried on unfazed to add 102 for the second wicket – first with captain Dinesh Chandimal who retired ill on 15, and then with Angelo Mathews who made 31.
Mendis put on a further 52 for the third with Roshen Silva who scored 14, before falling to Bishoo with the shadows lengthening.
Kieran Powell had earlier missed out on a deserving hundred when he perished for 88 as West Indies, resuming the day on 131 for four, declared their second innings on 223 for seven, 13 minutes after lunch.
The elegant left-hander, starting the day on 64, never found his rhythm of the previous evening and struggling to score freely, eventually clipping an ordinary ball from off-spinner Dilruwan Perera for substitute Jeffrey Vandersay to claim a low catch at mid-wicket, 45 minutes before lunch.
He faced 127 deliveries in 2-3/4 hours at the crease and counted seven fours and two sixes.
There was little urgency from he or wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich who departed on the half-hour mark, lbw to seamer Lahiru Kumara after adding two runs to his overnight 11.
Thankfully, Holder then arrived to lift the scoring rate, striking four fours and a straight six in a 40-ball cameo, as he added a vital 42 for the sixth wicket with Powell.
He departed lbw to left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, 15 minutes before lunch, leaving West Indies on 209 for seven at the interval.
The hosts hung around for a further three overs following the resumption, enough time to get the lead to over 450, before declaring for the second time in the match – only the second time in 33 years the Windies had managed the feat.
Kumara ended with three for 40 and Herath, two for 52. West Indies wasted little time in making inroads when speedster Shannon Gabriel claimed Kusal Perera cheaply for 12 in the fourth over with the score on 21, the left-hander caught at first slip by Devon Smith looking to work a quick delivery into the on-side.
Chandimal appeared untroubled in his 21 balls at the crease but complained of feeling unwell and left the field, with the score on 49.
However, Mendis and Mathews ensured there was no further loss, taking Sri Lanka to tea on 65 for one, before pushing on in the final session with free scoring. Sri Lanka were beginning to enforce a Windies retreat when Mathews fell to a soft dismissal, feathering a leg-side catch to Dowrich off seamer Holder. Even then, Mendis remained difficult to dislodge, reaching his sixth Test half-century on the stroke of the final hour and also showing enough swagger to hook fast bowler Kemar Roach for his second six.
Sri Lanka were inching their way to the close in a strong position when Silva got one from Bishoo that held up in the pitch, found himself in a tangle and looped a simple return catch.