A century from Kraigg Brathwaite proved the backbone of a strong first innings for the West Indies but Sri Lanka are firmly in the contest after another fifty from Lahiru Thirimanne.
Sri Lanka reached stumps at 136/3 trailing by 218 after bowling the West Indies out for 354 earlier in the day.
With Dinesh Chandimal (34*) and Dhanajaya de Silva (23*) both well set, the Sri Lankans will be hoping to take a key first-innings lead.
Having played within himself with plenty of success in the first Test, Thirimanne started his innings in the second Test with notably more positivity. He opened his account with a drive through mid-off for four in the innings’ first over from Roach (1/39).
With his captain and opening partner Dimuth Karunaratne struggling at the other end, Thirimanne looked to keep the pressure on the West Indies’ attack, hitting another boundary in the sixth over off Shannon Gabriel (0/28).
While Thirimanne was seeing them well, Karunaratne (1) was struggling to get going. Having scored a single off the first ball he faced, he had since been kept scoreless for 15 balls. On the 16th he edged Alzarri Joseph (1/31) to the cordon, where he was caught spectacularly. Diving full length to his right at third slip, Nkrumah Bonner pulled in the catch with his right hand at full stretch.
Despite the loss of Karunaratne, Sri Lanka reached the tea break in the reasonably strong position of 60/1, with Thirimanne closing in on a half-century following a flurry of boundaries towards the end of the session.
It had been an eventful start to the innings for Oshada Fernando, who survived two lbw reviews from the West Indies before the tea break. Both reviews had come back ‘umpire’s call’. On 18 his time was up, trapped in front by Kyle Mayers (1/6).
And the hosts were soon celebrating a double-strike as Thirimanne played one shot too many, chopping on against Roach for 55 to leave Sri Lanka in a spot of bother at 77/3. It was Thirimanne’s third consecutive half-century for the series.
His fall meant two new batsmen were out in the middle but that did not prove the opening the West Indies had hoped, with Chandimal and Dhananjaya reaching stumps with relative ease - the latter surviving a caught behind appeal from Cornwall (0/8) in the final over of the day.
Earlier, the day started on a positive note for the West Indies as Brathwaite brought up his first Test century as captain on the second ball of the morning session.
It was a welcome return to form for the opener, who had not scored a century since 2018.
Having gone to sleep on 99, he put any nerves to bed at the start of the day by nudging Suranga Lakmal (4/94) down to fine leg for a single to reach the milestone in 241 deliveries. The 28-year-old has now scored nine Test centuries and he is the only West Indies opener to have scored a hundred in the format since Chris Gayle in 2013.
In the very next over the Sri Lankans thought they had their man as Brathwaite edged Vishwa Fernando (1/71) to second slip. However, umpire Joel Wilson suspected it was a bump-ball and the third umpire quickly confirmed as much.
The West Indies were soon celebrating another milestone as Cornwall raised his second consecutive half-century with an edged four behind point. Another edge for four through the same region took Cornwall past his previous Test best of 61. His next boundary was far more convincing – a backfoot cut for four that took the eighth-wicket stand past 100.
But Cornwall’s luck would soon run out as he miscued a drive against Lakmal straight into the hands of mid-off to perish for a 92-ball 73 featuring 10 fours and one six.
With his team at 325/8 and only the tail for company, Brathwaite started to play his strokes, punching Lakmal down the ground for one boundary before smoking Dushmantha Chameera (3/69) through the covers for another.
Unfortunately for the hosts, the fireworks did not last too long. Roach (9) came and went, caught behind off Chameera, and soon after Brathwaite’s 311-ball, 514-minute vigil came to an end.
The captain dragged a good length ball from Chameera onto his stumps, perishing for 126 having lifted his side to a commendable 354 after it was 185/6 at one point.
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