Windies in control but controversy takes headlines

Sri Lanka team management in discussions with ICC match referee Javagal Srinath (left) during the controversy yesterday morning. (Photo courtesy ICC Media)

GROS ISLET, St Lucia,  CMC – A late strike by speedster Shannon Gabriel gave West Indies control of the second Test against Sri Lanka but a ball-change controversy marred proceedings, headlining the third day and threatening to disrupt the series here yesterday.

Leading by 47 runs after racking up 300 in their first innings at the Darren Sammy Cricket Ground, West Indies reduced the visitors to 34 for one in their second innings at the close, leaving them still in deficit by 13 runs.

Gabriel, inspired by his five-wicket haul in the first innings, found the edge of left-hander Kusal Perera’s bat in the penultimate over of the day, for wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich to gobble up an easy catch.

Devon Smith had earlier struck 61 while Dowrich extended his good form in the series with a  sixth Test half-century of 55, as West Indies tried to rally from their overnight 118 for two, following Friday’s rain-hit second day.  Roston Chase chimed in with 41 but the Windies declined badly after reaching 241 for four, losing their last six wickets for just 59 runs.

Impressive seamer Lahiru Kumara was the leading bowler with four for 86 while debutant pacer Kasun Rajitha claimed three for 49 and fellow speedster Suranga Lakmal, two for 50.

For all the action on the field, however, controversy dominated the narrative as Sri Lanka refused to take the field at the start of the day after umpires, concerned over the altered condition of the ball from the previous day, changed the ball and awarded West Indies five penalty runs.

That decision did not bode well with the Sri Lanka players and management who protested the decision, and players remained off the field for nearly the first hour.

Players finally took the field at 10:50 am but the Sri Lanka fielders subsequently left the field in protest, remaining just beyond the boundary in discussions with team management, while match officials also huddled in conference.

Action finally got underway half-hour before the scheduled lunch interval, after Sri Lanka Cricket authorities instructed the team to take the field but “under protest”, according to a statement from SLC.

With controversy in the air, the session was a muted one and in the time available, West Indies reached 154 for three, losing overnight batsman Shai Hope for 19 after adding 17 to his overnight score before edging a lifter from Lakmal to first slip, three overs before the interval.

Smith, unbeaten on 60 at lunch after starting the day on 53, added just one after the break before falling in the third over, lbw to off-spinner Akila Dananjaya.

All told, the left-hander faced 176 balls in just under 5-1/4 hours and struck four fours and a six.

His dismissal brought together Chase and Dowrich and together they accelerated the scoring to push West Indies past the 200-run mark.

Dowrich played attractively, stroking five fours and a six in a 98-ball knock while Chase counted five fours in a breezy 68-ball stay at the crease.

Chase eventually perished in the penultimate over before tea, clipping Kumara to Lakmal at mid-wicket, setting in train the collapse in the final session. Dowrich, on 44 at tea with West Indies on 241 for five, reached his half-century in the fourth over following the resumption when he pulled Rajitha wide of mid-wicket for two. However, he fell soon afterwards, edging Lakmal behind with the score on 254.

Devendra Bishoo followed soon afterwards, caught at second slip off Rajitha and captain Jason Holder, yet to score at tea, made 13 before nicking the same bowler behind.

On 279 for eight at this stage, there was little resistance from the tail as Kumara knocked over the last two batsmen.

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