Sri Lanka 253 and 34 for 1 (Udawatte 11*) trail West Indies 300 (Smith 61, Dowrich 55, Kumara 4-86, Rajitha 3-49) by 13 runs
Sri Lanka’s quicks scythed through the West Indies lower order, and finished only 13 runs behind for the loss of one wicket by stumps. But it was what they did at the start of the day that loomed over this game. For two hours, they refused to take the field, and when they did, it was only “under protest”. The reason? Match officials had charged them with ball tampering, slapping on a five-run penalty, and changing the ball that had been used on day one. Sri Lanka’s coach and team management were seen in animated discussions with match officials, after being told of the tampering allegations shortly before the teams were set to take the field. They were eventually convinced to resume play, but deny any “wrongdoing” according to a board release. An inquiry on these charges will be held after stumps on Saturday.
Though there is a major controversy brewing, this is now a finely-balanced Test, the visitors fighting back hard, after having allowed West Indies to take control of the match over the first two days. The definitive period of play was the 20.3 overs they delivered with the second new ball, either side of tea. In that period they took the six final West Indies wickets for 59 runs – Lahiru Kumara taking three of those wickets, to finish with an impressive 4 for 84 on a day in which he had bowled deliveries as fast as 149kph. Kasun Rajitha also collected encouraging figures in his first Test innings, removing Devendra Bishoo and Jason Holder in a single intense spell, to end with 3 for 49.
The pitch, though, remained helpful for the quicks, especially when they bowled with the new ball, and Sri Lanka will know they are in for another fight tomorrow. Sri Lanka had just under an hour to bat at the end of the day, and were frequently in trouble through this period. Kusal Perera played a stroke-filled 23-ball innings, collecting three boundaries, and miscuing other aerial shots. He was out for 20, leaden-footedly edging Shannon Gabriel to the wicketkeeper. The only batsmen who can be said to have prospered for a meaningful length of time on day three were Shane Dowrich, who hit 55, and Roston Chase, who joined Dowrich for a 78-run fifth-wicket stand.
Where in Trinidad Sri Lanka had allowed West Indies’ lower order to compile a formidable first-innings total almost on their own, it was Kumara’s intensity and Rajitha’s perseverance that enabled the visitors to shut this West Indies innings down in relatively quick time. Dowrich and Chase had built an ominous stand and had taken West Indies to within 14 runs of Sri Lanka’s first-innings total with six wickets still in hand, when the second new ball became available. Kumara struck the first blow, having Chase caught at short midwicket for 44. He would later return to knock out the last two wickets, nailing Kemar Roach in front of leg stump with a yorker, and having Shannon Gabriel top edge a heave off the short ball.
In between, Rajitha and Suranga Lakmal moved the ball consistently off the seam, and all three bowlers drew plenty of false strokes – the lower order seeming to play and miss more often than they made connection.
Earlier in the day, only 12.3 overs had been possible because of Sri Lanka’s refusal to take the field. When they did begin to play, Kumara was seemingly channelling the ire felt in the Sri Lanka dressing room, sending down a barrage of hostile short deliveries at the overnight pair. Smith was unruffled by the strategy, and batted with caution, much as he had on the previous day. Shai Hope was not as confident, and was eventually out edging Lakmal to the cordon for 19. Subtlety – rather than menace – would later be the end of Smith. Expecting an offbreak from Akila Dananjaya, who was operating around the wicket to the left-hander, Smith was struck on the pad by a slider that would have gone on to hit the stumps. He had made a vital 61, however. Not only was Smith’s the highest individual score in West Indies’ total of 300, it was an important innings for a batsman who is attempting to win a consistent place in this team, at the age of 36.