GROS ISLET, St Lucia, CMC – Speedster Shannon Gabriel snatched a career-best six-wicket haul to take 10 wickets in a Test for the first time but Sri Lanka resisted stubbornly to set up an intriguing final day of the second Test today. Floundering on 48 for four after resuming yesterday’s penultimate day on 34 for one in their second innings, Sri Lanka rallied to end on 334 for eight – a handy lead of already 287 runs.
They owed their revival to the classy Kusal Mendis who stroked a delightful 87 while wicketkeeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella carved out 62 and Roshen Silva, 48. Captain Dinesh Chandimal, controversially charged late Saturday by the ICC with altering the condition of the ball, contributed 39 to follow up his unbeaten hundred in the first innings.
However, it was Gabriel who stole the headlines with a spell of six for 57 which gave him 11 wickets so far in the contest and has left him just two shy of 100 wickets in his Test career. With Sri Lanka in command at 298 for six with Dickwella and Silva involved in a productive 99-run stand for the seventh wicket, it was the outstanding Gabriel who returned to remove both in the space of 12 deliveries, to tilt the encounter the Windies way yet again.
Crucially though, tail-enders Akila Dananjaya (16 not out) and Suranga Lakmal (seven not out) then frustrated the hosts, so far adding 27 for the ninth wicket in a stand which has already taken half-hour out of the game.
Resuming the day still 13 runs in deficit, Sri Lanka endured a nightmare first hour when they lost a further three wickets to teeter on the brink of collapse. Gabriel struck with the fourth delivery of the day, when he trapped night-watchman Kasun Rajitha plumb lbw for a duck, and three overs later, had Dhananjaya De Silva caught at first slip for three by Devon Smith.
Seamer Kemar Roach, who ended with two for 75, claimed his first scalp of the day when left-handed opener Mahela Udawatte (19) drove tamely to mid-off where Devendra Bishoo held a simple catch.
Mendis and Chandimal, both with hundreds under their belts in the series, then came together in a key fourth wicket stand of 117 for the fifth wicket, which saw the visitors safely to lunch on 136 for four.
Both batsmen, though, were gifted lives through the Windies indiscipline with no-balls. Captain Jason Holder was the first to offer charity to the visitors, when Mendis, on 14, was caught behind down the leg-side, only for umpire Aleem Dar to nullify the dismissal with a call of no-ball. Gabriel then followed up with a similar indiscretion, when he drew Chandimal into an ill-advised cut and had him caught at gully, only for the dismissal to be overturned following a TV replay of the delivery.
Mendis played superbly to be unbeaten on 53 at the break, reaching his landmark from 67 balls just before the interval, when he turned a delivery from part-time off-spinner Roston Chase to backward square for two runs.
Chandimal, meanwhile, on 27 not out at the interval, failed to add anything of significance before falling in the seventh over following the resumption – once a short rain delay had ended – feathering a cut at Roach behind to wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich.
He faced 112 balls in nearly 2-1/4 hours and hit one four. Mendis put on a further 34 for the sixth wicket with Silva, and when rain forced an early tea break, Sri Lanka were rebuilding at 194 for five.
All told, he struck eight fours and two sixes in a knock lasting 117 balls and 3-1/4 hours. If West Indies were scenting a quick end to the innings they were disappointed as Dickwella and Silva came together to marshal the innings.
Left-hander Dickwella hammered seven fours in a breezy 70-ball knock while Silva opted for the sheet anchor role, counting just two fours in an innings spanning 115 deliveries and 2-3/4 hours.
By the time Gabriel had Silva brilliantly caught one-handed down the leg-side by Dowrich and claimed Dickwella to a catch at cover by Kieran Powell, the close was already beckoning and Dananjaya and Lakmal held firm to extend the Windies frustration.