Rajitha, Lakmal leave West Indies on survival mode

West Indies 300 (Smith 61, Kumara 4-86) and 55 for 3 (Brathwaite 32*, Dowrich 0*) trail Sri Lanka 253 and 342 (Mendis 87, Dickwella 62, Gabriel 8-62) by 241 runs

Seamers helped Sri Lanka strides toward a series-levelling victory, after Shannon Gabriel had completed an exceptional match haul of 13 for 121 early in the day. At lunch, Sri Lanka needed seven further wickets (six, if Shai Hope, who retired hurt, doesn’t bat again), with 69 overs left in which to get them. West Indies required 241 more runs, having been set 296.

At the crease for the hosts, though, were Shane Dowrich – one of the form batsmen of the series so far – and Kraigg Brathwaite, who can sometimes be immovable when he gets set. The outcome of this Test may hinge on their partnership.

With quicks having been penetrative with the new ball right through this Test, the first 20 overs of West Indies’ innings was always going to be crucial to their hopes. But they didn’t resist for long. Debutant Kasun Rajitha, who had moved the ball each way in the first innings, struck twice in the space of three balls, in his second over. He lured Devon Smith into a drive with a delivery that seamed away from the left hander, and had him caught at third slip. Two balls later, he jagged on into Kieran Powell, and got him flicking aerially to square leg. At 8 for 2, the hosts’ situation appeared dire.

Brathwaite helped restore a little calm. There were plays-and-misses aplenty through those early overs, and a couple of thick edges as well, but he survived the toughest period, and saw through the spells of the new-ball bowlers. At the other end, Shai Hope seemed to be working his way nicely into the innings as well, when Lahiru Kumara turned up at the bowling crease, and floored him with a 147 kph bouncer that hit him in the ribs.

Though he toyed with the idea of batting on, Hope eventually decided to leave the field, seemingly unable to bend or twist because of the pain. Next ball, Kumara almost had new batsman Roston Chase nicking to the cordon. He drew an outside edge, and although on first glance it appeared as if second slip Dhananjaya de Silva had taken a low catch, but he immediately indicated that the ball had bounced, even as teammates were celebrating a wicket around him.

Chase would resist alongside Brathwaite for more than 10 overs, but never looked particularly comfortable at the crease. Eventually, a smart passage of bowling would remove him, six minutes before lunch. Having bowled a series of away-seamers at Chase, Suranga Lakmal delivered a straight ball, and removed Chase’s off stump, the batsman playing for the seam movement. New batsman Dowrich did not have to face any balls before the end of the session – Brathwaite batting out a maiden.

Earlier, Shannon Gabriel had blasted out Sri Lanka’s two final wickets in his first two overs of the day, to claim the third-best match figures in West Indies’ storied Test bowling history. He had nailed Lakmal in front of the stumps before Sri Lanka could get off the mark on day five, and in his next over, bowled Akila Dananjaya twice.

The first of those dismissals was wrongly deemed not out, because the umpire called a no ball. In fact, a sliver of Gabriel’s boot had actually landed behind the line. No matter, two balls and three runs later, Dananjaya ducked to short-pitche Gabriel delivery, but the ball did not rise as the batsman expected, and ricocheted off his arm guard into the stumps. That was also Gabriel’s 100th Test wicket. Sri Lanka had added only eight runs to their overnight score.

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