Stumps West Indies 131 for 4 (Powell 64*, Kumara 2-28) and 414 for 8 lead Sri Lanka 185 (Chandimal 44, Cummins 3-39, Roach 2-34) by 360 runs
Sri Lanka’s first innings crashed and burned in the face of sprightly bowling, before the West Indies top order turned a commanding lead into a near-unassailable position late on day three. Having dismissed Sri Lanka for 185, West Indies finished the day 360 runs ahead, and with six second-innings wickets in hand. The track had begun to take a little turn, but with Sri Lanka so far back in the game, not even Rangana Herath may be able to bail them out. With two days left to play, rain seems the visitors’ biggest hope.
As has been the case throughout this game, the West Indies cause had several important contributors. Kemar Roach made the tone-setting early breakthrough in the third over of the day, uprooting the leg stump of the in-form Roshen Silva with a full delivery. Late in that session, Shannon Gabriel took another important wicket, having Dinesh Chandimal caught at backward point. In the afternoon Miguel Cummins wiped out the tail with a short-ball barrage. Herath, Suranga Lakmal and Lahiru Kumara were all out top-edging pulls off Cummins. Then, when West Indies went in to bat on a lead of 229, Kieran Powell held firm for the hosts, secure in defense, and elegant on the offside, as he breezed to 64 off 80 balls.
Sri Lanka, though, will blame themselves for the errors that have landed them in such a dire position. Chandimal had looked good for a big score, timing the ball nicely after the early morning’s swing had disappeared. But then, just as he began to free his arms, a rush of blood cost him his wicket. He had earlier slashed Gabriel over point for four, but when he attempted the shot again in the approach to lunch, he could not manage a good enough connection – the ball too close to his body for the stroke. He ended up only miscuing the shot to Roston Chase, to took it easily above his head. Chandimal would turn out to be the innings’ top scorer, with 44.
The man he had built a promising 68-run stand with – Niroshan Dickwella – was perhaps even more culpable for his dismissal. Having resisted intelligently for the first 77 balls of his innings, Dickwella struck a ball towards mid on and began to amble a single. There was a little miscommunication with non-striker Dilruwan Perera, but even after both batsmen had agreed to the run, Dickwella only jogged through to the other end. Suddenly, he discovered that Kraigg Brathwaite had run down this ball, had turned, and thrown at the stumps in one fluid motion. Dickwella hastily reached for the crease, but it was too late – he was found almost thirty centimetres short by the direct hit. Were it not for his complacency, it should have been an easy single.
Where West Indies’ lower order had scrapped, lifting the team from 147 for 5 to 414 for 8, Sri Lanka’s wilted under the heat. With Cummins aiming bowling with hostility, the last four wickets fell in the space of nine overs. All up, Sri Lanka had lost 4 for 43 at the top of their innings, and 6 for 64 at the back end – the Chandimal-Dickwella stand the only period of real resistance.
Jason Holder opted not to enforce the follow-on, with his bowlers having been in the field for more than 55 overs. So good was their position, even a few early wickets did not really dent West Indies’ chances in the game. Devon Smith was bowled twice in two balls by Suranga Lakmal, the first of those having come off a no-ball. Kraigg Brathwaite and Shai Hope then edged Lahiru Kumara behind – the former snaffled by a diving Niroshan Dickwellla, and the latter caught athletically by Kusal Mendis, who snatched a sharp overhead chance from second slip.
But no matter. Thanks to Powell, the hosts surged ahead. His boundaries came mainly on the offside – cover drives off Lakmal and Herath especially pleasing to the eye. He went to fifty with a straight six, off Dilruwan Perera, having come down the track. West Indies were bossing the game, and Powell was having a little fun.