GALLE, Sri Lanka– A dismal final hour damaged West Indies’ chances of gaining a foothold in the opening Test, as a clatter of wickets left the tourists with a mountain to climb heading into Tuesday’s third day at Galle International Stadium.
Already under pressure after Sri Lanka piled up 386 all out on the second day here Monday, West Indies finished the day tottering on 113 for six, still, 273 runs behind but more significantly, requiring a further 74 runs to avoid the follow on.
They were well placed at 80 for two after captain Kraigg Brathwaite, who top-scored with 41, and Jermaine Blackwood (20) provided a solid start, but four wickets tumbled for 20 runs in the space of 49 deliveries to leave the innings in meltdown.
Left-hander Kyle Mayers was unbeaten on 22 off 20 balls with five fours and was partnered by all-rounder Jason Holder on one.
In only his third Test, Off-spinner Ramesh Mendis claimed three for 23, including the vital wicket of Brathwaite, while 23-year-old left-arm spinner Praveen Jayawickrama, in his second Test, ended with two for 25.
“[Mendis] bowled some good balls, but obviously, we will sit and still review how to better [play] the off-spinner,” Brathwaite said.
“The guys to come are looking forward to the challenge. We know it won’t be easy, but we have to keep supporting [them].”
Off-spinner Roston Chase had earlier picked up his fourth five-wicket haul in Tests when he finished with five for 83 as West Indies managed to limit Sri Lanka after the hosts resumed from 267 for three.
Left-arm spinner Jomel Warrican grabbed three for 87 while fast bowler Shannon Gabriel added a second wicket to end with two 69, ensuring the touring side knocked over the last five wickets for just 55 runs.
Captain Dimuth Karunaratne, unbeaten on 132 at the start, was dismissed for 147 on the stroke of the first hour, the victim of great awareness by Joshua Da Silva. She whipped the bails off after the left-hander played, missed a widish delivery from Chase, and inadvertently dragged his boot off the crease.
All told, Karunaratne faced 300 balls in the shade under 7-¼ hours and struck 15 fours.
Dhananjaya de Silva had perished half-hour earlier after adding just four to his overnight 57, becoming the day’s first casualty when he dislodged the bails with his bat as he comically tried to prevent a loose ball he had defended off Gabriel from hitting his stumps.
Dinesh Chandimal, who struck five fours in 45 from 83 balls, then combined in a 36-run, sixth-wicket stand with Mendis (13) to repair the damage, before Mendis departed to a catch at the wicket off Warrican, three overs before lunch taken at 341 for six.
After the break, any hopes of passing the 400-run mark were quickly dashed as Warrican and Chase scythed through the lower order.
West Indies came through the seven overs before tea unscathed to be 12 without loss at the second interval and then frustrated Sri Lanka as Brathwaite and Blackwood staged a 41-run opening stand.
Brathwaite, reprieved by DRS on five after being adjudged lbw to the last ball before tea, punched seven fours off 115 deliveries. At the same time, Blackwood faced 43 balls and lashed a four and a six – both boundaries coming in the first over after tea off left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya.
However, Blackwood played down the wrong line and was lbw to the same bowler, and Nkrumah Bonner (1) lasted only 11 balls before falling to a sharp chance at first slip off Jayawickrama.
Brathwaite and Shai Hope (10) – a concussion substitute for Jeremy Solozano – then tried to rebuild in a 29-run, third-wicket stand, but once the partnership was broken, the innings fell apart.
Brathwaite turned Mendis into Pathum Nissanka’s hands at leg slip; Hope whipped the same bowler to Oshada Fernando at short leg seven balls later before nightwatchman Warrican edged a defensive prod at Jayawickrama behind for one and then astonishingly reviewed the decision despite the prominent outside edge.
Mendis struck again when Chase tapped a defensive stroke low to Fernando at short leg as West Indies stumbled close.