GROS ISLET, St Lucia, CMC – Shannon Gabriel’s record eight-wicket haul set the stage for a sensational West Indies run chase but sloppy batting, coupled with inclement weather, ensured an anti-climatic end as the second Test against Sri Lanka ended in a draw here yesterday.
In the end, the final day at the Darren Sammy Cricket Ground which started with so much promise, ended with West Indies battling to save the contest and preserve their 1-0 lead in the three-Test series.
Set 296 for victory with nearly three full sessions available, West Indies slumped to eight for two early on and were clinging on at 147 for five, when bad light drove players from the field at 5:05 pm, never to return.
To Sri Lanka’s dismay, rain had earlier arrived half-hour after the tea break with West Indies on 137 for five, causing a delay of just over an hour.
When play finally resumed, only 15 balls were possible before the quickly diminishing light ended play again.
Throughout the turmoil of the day, opener Kraigg Brathwaite remained resolute with an unbeaten 59 and was accompanied by Captain Jason Holder at the end on 15.
Shai Hope made 39 but no other batsman passed 15 as Sri Lanka’s seam attack made repeated inroads.
Brathwaite’s innings became especially important especially after partner Devon Smith (1) and Keiran Powell (2) perished in the fourth over of the innings, and he promptly put his immense powers of concentration on display in a knock lasting 172 balls, 4-1/2 hours and including six fours.
Speedster Gabriel had earlier produced a career-best match haul of 13 for 121 – the third best overall figures by a West Indies bowler in Tests – when he quickly wrapped up the Sri Lanka second innings inside the first 20 minutes of the day by taking the last two wickets.
Resuming on 334 for eight, Sri Lanka’s innings lasted just 16 deliveries before buckling for 342 all out, with Gabriel finishing with eight for 62 – the sixth best innings figures for a West Indies bowler in Tests and the best by a fast bowler in international cricket in 17 years.
He struck in the morning’s first over when he pinned Suranga Lakmal on the crease, lbw for seven before removing Akila Dananjaya for 23 in his next over, bowled after ducking in a short ball which never got up.
The two strikes saw Gabriel reach 100 wickets in his 34th Test.
Any hopes the Windies had of chasing down their target were quickly dashed, however. Veteran left-hander Smith drove at a wide full length delivery from seamer Kasun Rajitha (2-23) and edged to Dhananjaya de Silva moving to his right at third slip.
Two balls later in the same over, new batsman Powell clipped one of his pads and was taken low down at short square leg by Mahela Udawatte.
Tottering on eight for two, West Indies then lost Hope who retired hurt on six with the score on 25 for two – an hour before lunch – when he took a blow to the ribs off a short ball from the slippery pacer Lahiru Kumara.
Roston Chase replaced him and made 13 in extending the second wicket stand to 47 before perishing in the penultimate over before lunch, bowled off-stump by speedster Suranga Lakmal (2-48) missing a defensive prod.
On 55 for three at lunch with the focus now only on survival, West Indies were further set back in the fourth over following the resumption when Shane Dowrich, yet to score at the break, perished for eight with nine runs added.
He prodded at one from off-spinner Danajaya and edged a catch to de Silva at first slip.
Hope returned and combined in a 53-run fifth wicket stand with Brathwaite that saw West Indies safely to tea without further loss, on 108 for four.
The right-handed Hope, unbeaten on 34 at the interval, had counted four fours and a six in an innings lasting 115 balls and 2-1/2 hours when he fell in the fourth over following the resumption, bowled by Lakmal off his arm.
Brathwaite lofted Dananjaya down the ground in the next over to reach his 17th Test half-century before the heavens opened two overs later, to set in motion the result.