‘Words can’t describe Gabriel’s performance’

He took a few wickets with pace. Then a few more with bounce. Even some with lateral movement. Shannon Gabriel was so good in St Lucia that he vaulted into the record books. Only once has a West Indian bowler struck more than the 13 times he did in a single Test match. And that was back in 1976, when Michael Holding wrapped England up and put them in his pocket.

“It’s a great feeling,” Gabriel said after the game. “If someone told me, ‘Shannon, you’ll play Tests and take 100 wickets’, I would’ve told him, ‘you’re crazy!’ I’d like to thank family and friends for supporting me.

“I was prepared well for this series, getting myself fit. As long as you get wickets, pains and aches go away. I was supported well by Kemar (Roach), he was unlucky. Miguel Cummins kept coming at the batsmen. (Jason) Holder was also very good. Anything other than a loss is good. We can take plenty of positives from this Test.”

There was only one clear star though, at least in the captain Holder’s eyes. “Shannon was absolutely outstanding. I don’t think words can describe the spell he bowled in both the first and second innings. He was aggressive. His pace was up. He caused trouble with every spell he came in and bowled and he stood up. He put us in a position to draw this Test match.”

West Indies had gained a 1-0 lead in the first Test of the series and were fighting to protect it at the Darren Sammy stadium. Gabriel was a key part of that, picking up 5 for 59 and then bettering it with 8 for 62. Only three times in the last 23 years has a West Indies bowler taken five wickets in each innings.

The other saviour for West Indies was opener Kraigg Brathwaite. He soldiered on for 60.3 overs even as the top order crumbled – they were 64 for 4 chasing 296 – to shut down Sri Lanka’s hopes of levelling the series. The hosts had a little help from a timely spell of rain as well.

“Congrats as well to Kemar [Roach] and Kraigg, both reaching milestones in this Test match. Three-thounsand Test match [runs] as an opening batter is remarkable and obviously Kemar getting 150 wickets. Very very pleasing to see our guys getting some landmarks and hopefully they can keep pressing forward.”

The other major talking point from the Test match was a ball-tampering issue that broke out on the third day. The umpires laid a complaint against Sri Lanka’s methods at maintaining the red-ball following which they refused to take the field for two hours. Eventually, their captain Dinesh Chandimal was charged by the ICC for breaking the code of conduct.

Holder would not be drawn into talking about the incident but he did feel aggrieved that there was little communication between the officials and the West Indies team. “To be honest I wasn’t aware of what was going on early in the morning. Then we got some information of what was going on. Obviously we’ve seen what has transpired and what has come of it. I choose not to get involved with it. The game is in the control of the match referee. Just a bit disappointed with how it was handled. We basically sat around for two hours with not much information”

Holder was far more open in talking about the final Test of the series, starting on Saturday. “Its obviously a special occasion, the first day-night Test in the Caribbean. I guess the people of Barbados – I’m from Barbados as well – will come out and support us. They’re really avid cricket fans and it should be a really good spectacle at the Kensington Oval.”

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