A fighting knock from Kraigg Brathwaite saw the West Indies and Sri Lanka end day one of the second Test on equal footing.
Brathwaite stood tall to reach stumps not out on 99 with a tough night's sleep ahead of him. At the other end, Rahkeem Cornwall was on 43 with the West Indies 287/7 at the close of play after being sent out to bat.
The opener showed plenty of gumption through day one, holding his nerve as wickets fell regularly around him.
It was Suranga Lakmal (3/71) who again played tormenter-in-chief to the West Indies top order. Hitting a consistent line and length outside off-stump, the seamer opened with three straight maidens before striking in clinical fashion.
Eventually, the pressure told as Lakmal ended his fourth straight maiden over with the wicket of John Campbell, caught behind for five.
Nkrumah Bonner, fresh from his first Test century, was next in Lakmal’s crosshairs. The No.3 edged short of the slips and he missed two outswingers before misjudging a delivery angling in towards his off-stump and playing on for the first duck of his young Test career.
Lakmal was hugely unlucky not to add Kyle Mayers to his hit list in the sixth over as he saw a good length delivered edged and put down in the slips by a diving Pathum Nissanka on just 12. It was one of three dropped catches from the Sri Lankans for the day.
It's been a good first hour for Sri Lanka! 🔥— ICC (@ICC) March 29, 2021
Lakmal has snared Campbell and Bonner, and after 14 overs, West Indies are 42/2.
Can Mayers and Brathwaite revive them?#WIvSL ➡️ https://t.co/HL8pbcQ9yu pic.twitter.com/AdPKlhBHeC
Brathwaite and Mayers continued to look uneasy against Lakmal but started to rebuild together, picking up runs off Lasith Embuldeniya (1/79) and bringing up the fifty-run partnership off Dushmantha Chameera’s first delivery in the 21st over. The pair saw out the morning session at 86/2.
Having experienced a few strokes of fortune to reach 49, Mayers’ luck ran out on the third ball of the second session when he nicked Vishwa Fernando (1/59) behind to Niroshan Dickwella in the 28th over.
Looking to shift the tide, Jermaine Blackwood came out swinging, hitting Lakmal for a four and a six in the 29th over. He hit one more boundary off the Sri Lankan seamer before Lakmal got his revenge, drawing an outside edge from Blackwell (18) and a diving catch from Dickwella.
It should have been worse for the hosts as well, with Brathwaite enjoying a life on 37 off the bowling of Fernando, dropped at third slip shortly before Blackwood’s fall.
In the company of Jason Holder, he raised his half-century off 116 deliveries. The veteran duo raced to a fifty-run stand in just 64 deliveries, with Holder scoring at close to a run-a-ball. The all-rounder hit five fours in his 34-ball stay before falling to Dhananjaya de Silva (1/16) for 30.
Fifty for Kraigg Brathwaite 👏— ICC (@ICC) March 29, 2021
Leading from the front, the West Indies captain is playing an important hand with the bat with the score 140/4 after 42 overs.#WIvSL ➡️ https://t.co/HL8pbd7KX4 pic.twitter.com/OSw3PJT6it
Two balls later Dhananjaya was celebrating the wicket of Joshua da Silva, given out lbw for what would have been a duck. The batter called for what proved a wise review, with ball tracking predicting the delivery was going down the legside. Not that da Silva had expected it, sheepishly making his way back to the middle having almost walked off the field of play.
That did not prove too costly for the Sri Lankans, with da Silva caught behind for one off Chameera (1/56) shortly after tea. The West Indies were in trouble at that point at 185/6.
Alzarri Joseph’s entry proved the salve they needed. With Brathwaite setting up his stall at the other end, Joseph played his shots, hitting the fourth ball he had faced back over Dhananjaya’s head for six.
He dominated a 37-run stand that took the West Indies past 200, hitting three fours and a six in an exciting and key cameo. He eventually fell lbw for 29 to Embuldeniya, who was a relieved man having dropped him at fine leg on 28 an over earlier.
Joseph’s innings had taken some of the wind out of Sri Lanka’s sails and Cornwall carried on where his teammate had left off, hitting the fourth delivery he faced through cover for four. Twenty of his first 22 runs came in boundaries before Brathwaite moved into the 90s with a sumptuous straight drive off Chameera that raced along the carpet to the ropes at long-on.
It was the last of his eight boundaries for the day and he will go to bed dreaming of a ton.
A century tomorrow will be the ninth of his Test career and his first as captain.
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