Yesterday will go down in history as yet another day 11 men clad in white from the Caribbean chased a red leather ball for six hours and at the end of it all, still couldn’t catch it.
The story has become all too familiar when the West Indies bowl at Test matches and at the close of the opening day of the first Test match of the Sobers/Tissera series against Sri Lanka at Galle, the home team was strongly placed at 250 for two.
Skipper Jason Holder is fully aware that the pitch is already drying out and batting last later on, will be almost impossible. It was crucial to get Sri Lanka out for a manageable score but this did not happen. As it stands now for the rest of this Test match the West Indies will be playing catch-up cricket.
The day belonged to Sri Lanka and in particular opener Dimuth Karunaratne who scored his third Test century to lead the way. The West Indies bowlers have nothing to feel ashamed about because they bowled tidily for the most part. The most expensive of the bowlers was leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo, who still did not bowl badly in conceding an economy rate of 3.54 per over. All the others were under two and this represented a disciplined effort.
At the close, Sri Lanka ended on 250 for two and when play resumes today Karunaratne will start over on 135 and Dinesh Chandimal on 72. So far Karunaratne has batted for 378 minutes, facing 288 balls, striking one six and 10 fours while Chandimal faced 146 balls in 198 minutes with one six and six fours.
Earlier, Holder called incorrectly at the toss and then had to rush back to his men to inform them that they were going into the heat, as Sri Lanka was batting first. An already dry track provided nothing for the fast bowlers and opener Kaushal Silva and Karunaratne played unfussed.
Men at slips kept on encouraging the fast men to run in but their offerings were met with broad bats. Although there was no penetration, the West Indians did not stray in attack and the home team brought up their first half century stand in Test cricket this year off 15.4 overs.
It took 92 minutes in the Galle heat before one witnessed the Caribbean “high five”, as Roach found the outside edge from a tentative forward prod by Silva (17) with the score at 56.
Struggling vice-captain Lahiru Thirimanne stayed with the obdurate Karunaratne until lunch with the score at 67/1.
After the break the West Indies bowlers continued to toil but the home team batsmen were up for the grind. Karunaratne and Thirimanne took the score past 100 but soon after the introduction of Bishoo, the latter fell. He was caught by substitute Rajendra Chandrika for 16, to continue his struggles in the critical number three position.
All the while Karunaratne was as solid as the rock fort behind him. He respected what was good that came his way and dispatched those balls that were not so worthy. He got past his half century off 114 balls with five fours and when tea was taken in the country famous for it, he was still there unbeaten on 82 and the score 141/2. The session was again taken by Sri Lanka who scored 74 runs for the loss of one wicket.
After tea the bowlers lines and lengths started to wane and willow met leather. Runs were aplenty with the small scattering of fans in the ground and outside the wire fencing on the Fort End lapping up the action. Karunaratne marched towards his hundred and actually raised it with a six off Bishoo. His third Test century came off 207 balls and included a six and eight fours.