Buoyed by a quicker pitch with some live grass on it, West Indies’ three-pronged pace attack made light work of Sri Lanka’s top order on the opening day of the second Test at the P Sara Oval. Milinda Siriwardana, however, repaired the early damage briefly with his maiden half-century in his second Test.
Jerome Taylor had woken up a groin niggle but passed a fitness test and consistently hit speeds above 140kph. He struck with his fourth ball – a beauty that angled in and curved away, leaving Kaushal Silva prodding and edging to the wicketkeeper. West Indies reviewed and the third umpire Marias Erasmus decided there was enough evidence to overturn umpire Rod Tucker’s on-field decision of not out. Silva was out for a duck and his lean patch was extended, having failed to build on a start in the first Test against West Indies after managing only 87 in six innings against India.
The wicket proved a scene-setter and each of the West Indies’ fast bowlers got extra bounce and zip. When Dinesh Chandimal played on for 25, the hosts stumbled to 90 for 5. Chandimal had added 31 with Siriwardana to threaten a recovery but it was foiled by Taylor in his third over after lunch.
Sirwardana, however, showed good composure – he was assured in defence and cashed in when fed with width. He carved Jason Holder over covers, eased Taylor past the same region, and slashed debutant left-arm spinner Jomel Warrican behind point. He would push on to bring up his fifty by dancing out and launching a straight six off 76 balls.
With Siriwardana joining hands with another left-hand batsman in Kusal Perera, West Indies’ premier spinner Devendra Bishoo was held back. Bishoo had come into the attack only after 36 overs in the Galle Test. Today, he came in after 46 overs.
Warrican began with a half-tracker, which was dispatched to the point boundary with a strong cut. He settled down quickly and twirled away in an uninterrupted 15-over spell after lunch. His reward off a bad ball: Kusal Perera stepped out and spooned a return catch off a full toss, becoming Warrican’s maiden Test victim.
The morning session was action-packed, containing as many as five reviews. West Indies’ second review, coming after the Silva wicket, also proved successful, and accounted for 20-year old Kusal Mendis for an edgy 13 on Test debut. Mendis had wafted at a Kemar Roach ball that straightened a touch and nicked behind.
Holder’s first dismissal – West Indies’ second of the morning – had also involved a review. He had Dimuth Karunaratne lbw for 13 in his second over; Sri Lanka’s review going in vain this time. The three West Indies quicks beat the outside edge regularly and reduced Sri Lanka to 59 for 4, six minutes before lunch. The session ended with West Indies bowling coach Curtly Ambrose welcoming his bowlers with warm applause.
West Indies, who spilled five catches in Galle, lifted themselves in the field. Shai Hope was sharp at short leg, Marlon Samuels made a diving save at backward point, while Holder threw himself around at mid-off. But the best piece of fielding came when Kraigg Brathwaite bent forward from second slip to snaffle Angelo Mathews. That catch was deemed clean after it was sent to the third umpire.