|Sri Lanka create history in the Caribbean|
|Wednesday, 26 March 2008|
Sri Lanka achieved their quest for a maiden Test win on Caribbean soil, in their fifth attempt, but it was far from an easy final-day feat thanks to some stubborn resistance from West Indies
Dwayne Bravo and Ramnaresh Sarwan extended their defiance in the opening session, but the Sri Lankan bowlers, led by Chaminda Vaas' 5 for 61, came back strongly after lunch, despite a back-to-the-wall innings from Chris Gayle. A splendid catch from Muttiah Muralitharan to dismiss the last-man Daren Powell off Vaas sparked joyous scenes as the visitors completed a 121-run win to go 1-0 up in the two-Test series. In times dominated by the buzz of pop-bang cricket the two teams battled on a gripping day.
West Indies began facing a mountain to climb and Sri Lanka snapped up wickets at crucial intervals to cut off all thoughts of a record 437-run chase. Bravo fell to Murali half an hour before lunch, Ryan Hinds went similarly on the stroke of tea, and Vaas nipped out the dangerous Shivnarine Chanderpaul in between - but Gayle's innings delayed victory wonderfully. When he came to the crease in the unfamiliar role of No. 6, with West Indies 178 for 4 in the 62nd over, he needed to keep the innings together. That he did that ever so spectacularly, eschewing his natural élan against the flow of wickets, was a tribute to his nerve.
From ball one he thrust pad and bat together, refusing to offer Sri Lanka a quarter. Thirteen overs into his obdurate innings he looked on as Sarwan, with the score 212, was adjudged lbw to one from Thilan Thushara that appeared to be sliding down leg. Then, with tea just moments away, he lost Hinds to another contentious decision. Mahela Jayawardene delayed the new ball and Hinds, opting to sweep a leg-side ball from Murali, was given out caught-behind. The replays were inconclusive. A probing first over from Thushara after tea earned him the wicket of Denesh Ramdin, beaten by three gems before edging a low catch to Jayawardene inches off the ground at first slip. It was a superb effort after the resumption from a bowler out of international action for some time, and he mixed reverse-swing with nagging accuracy. That wicket exposed the West Indian tail and meant they needed to see off 29 overs.
Running out of partners - Sulieman Benn fatally came forward to a Murali doosra - Gayle batted with excellent application. After a quiet 16 overs on the trot in the first session, a frustrated Murali raised his decibel levels against Gayle as the ball repeatedly struck his front pad, but nothing went his way. Long periods of plodding were infused with the odd swipe across the line for four. Vaas, to whom Gayle had fallen seven times in ten innings, was straight-batted with textbook precision. Jerome Taylor, as he did in the first innings when averting the follow-on, acquitted himself well. His reading of Murali was commendable, as was his ability to leave; two flowing cover-drives for four were a bonus.
Two balls into the 101st over, however, Vaas requested the new ball and it came on to Taylor harder and faster so he could only fend it to second slip. A 47-run stand, eked out ever so efficiently, was snapped to Sri Lanka's delight. Gayle reached his first fifty against Sri Lanka with a spanking shot but the end came with a blinder of a catch from Murali, running backwards at mid-off and plucking Powell's lofted drive with one hand. Vaas had bowled craftily all day and it was fitting that Sri Lanka's two most successful wicket-takers featured in the historic moment. Vaas' eight victims in the match and an unbeaten 54 in the second dig earned him the Man-of-the-Match award. Sri Lanka bowled and fielded like champions but West Indies must be credited for pushing this Test so close. Their heroes were Bravo, who flourished in his promotion to opener with a splendid 83; Sarwan, whose 72 from 206 balls offered hope when the walls began to cave in; and lastly Gayle, whose batting with the tail elicited nerve-racking repeats of Harare or Antigua. The Providence Stadium, hosting its maiden Test, didn't aid West Indies in reversing their falling fortunes, but was the venue for a historic first win in the Caribbean for Sri Lanka.
Jamie Alter is a staff writer at Cricinfo
(Courtesy : Cricinfo)
|Last Updated ( Wednesday, 26 March 2008 )|
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