West Indies 132 for 5 (Dowrich 60*, Holder 33*, Rajitha 2-36, Lakmal 2-42) v Sri Lanka
For the second time this series, Sri Lanka’s fast bowlers had West Indies on the mat, only to concede the advantage as the day progressed. The thorn on both occasions was Shane Dowrich, the spunky wicketkeeper-batsman who stayed unbeaten on 60, at the end of the first day at the Kensington Oval that saw only 46.3 overs being bowled because of rain interruptions.
In Port-of-Spain, he put on 90 for the sixth wicket with Jason Holder to set up a tall first-innings score in a match-winning effort. In Bridgetown, in the Caribbean’s first ever pink-ball Test, the pair’s unbroken 79-run stand revived West Indies from a hopeless 53 for 5 to 132 for 5 at stumps. This after Holder elected to bat on what wicketkeeper-turned-broadcaster Jeff Dujon described as “the greenest Barbados surface” he had seen.
Green as it was, there were patches of brown on either ends that made life difficult for batsmen, with certain deliveries rearing up and adding to the unpredictability of the pink ball. This made the sixth-wicket association all the more compelling, as they provided a batting lesson for their floundering top order, who kept an agile slip cordon busy all afternoon.
Dowrich’s seventh Test fifty was his second 50-plus score of the series, after his maiden Test century in the first Test. He was particularly severe on the short ball, unafraid to pull in front of square, particularly off Lahiru Kumara – whose fastest delivery was clocked at 148.1kph. Holder, meanwhile, was solid and composed to make a steady 33. The pair’s calculated approach, particularly under lights, stood out, even though Sri Lanka could claim the day as their own.
Leading in Dinesh Chandimal’s absence was Suranga Lakmal, Sri Lanka’s 16th Test captain, and he couldn’t have asked for a better bargain. A surface prepared largely keeping in mind the longevity of the pink ball played right into his hands as he struck in the very first over – Devon Smith’s feeble poke at an away-going delivery lapped up at third slip by Dhananjaya de Silva.
This was just the start of a procession, as Lakmal would strike again in his third over when Kraigg Brathwaite received an unplayable delivery that reared up and had him arching back to try and get out of the way. The ball lobbed off the glove even as an athletic Danushka Gunathilaka, replacing Chandimal, ran in a couple of paces from point and then extended a full-stretch dive to pluck an outstanding catch. Five balls later, Lahiru Kumara was in the thick of things as Kieran Powell’s jab resulted in an excellent grab by Kusal Mendis at second slip. Once again, the ball was dying on Mendis but a swift movement to his right made it look much easier. West Indies were now reeling at 8 for 3.
Roston Chase walked out to a packed cordon of three slips and two gullies, the ball buzzing across the surface at lively speeds. His previous Test at this venue produced a match-winning 131 against Pakistan last year, against an attack consisting of Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Abbas and Yasir Shah. Now, he had to contend with an attack that isn’t as skilled yet, but potent nonetheless on a surface with enough assistance.
After driving on the up through covers, Chase fell into his own trap: a repeat to a delivery that nipped in sharply resulting in Kasun Rajitha flattening his middle stump in his very first over, to leave West Indies gasping.
Shai Hope, who swept the Cricket West Indies annual awards couple of nights ago, came out looking to survive, and in doing so was sometimes even diffident in his 49-ball stay that produced 11. He would fall in the third over of the second session, the 24th of the innings, when Rajitha drew him into the drive with one that left him as Dhananjaya dived in front of the first slip to complete the catch.
The wickets falling around him briefly forced Dowrich to adopt an all-attack approach. The first misjudgment was to a Lakmal delivery, which was slightly full, as an attempted pull lobbed off a leading edge to elude point. Then, an ugly hoick off spinner Dilruwan Perera looped over backward point. With two half-chances going his way, he tightened up to play copy-book cricket in his captain’s company, the pair’s 33-run graft interrupted by a 107-minute rain delay.
After play resumed, the Sri Lankan attack seemed to have lost some steam. Dowrich and Holder imposed themselves to pick up quick and easy runs to seemingly put West Indies on the road to recovery, even though plenty of work lay ahead.