Friday, April 4, 2008

West Indies fight hard for lead

Chamara Silva top scored for Sri Lanka with 76...

Sri Lanka and West Indies fought hard to try and gain the upper hand in the second Test but the second day's play at the Queen's Park Oval ended with neither team gaining a decisive advantage. The battle for the first-innings lead was closely contested and West Indies finished 10 runs short of Sri Lanka's 278 with three wickets in hand.

West Indies had the better of the first two sessions and by tea they were superbly placed to go past Sri Lanka. Their bowlers had managed to winkle out Sri Lanka's last five wickets for 61 runs this morning and their top three batsmen - Ramnaresh Sarwan's 57 was the highlight - made useful contributions to steer West Indies to 133 for 1 by the tea break. However, Sri Lanka put the skids on the scoring-rate after tea and Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas had the batsmen under immense pressure. The result was that West Indies lost six wickets for 135 runs to bring the match back into balance.

However, it was an improved performance from West Indies after a wayward effort on the opening day. Tillakarate Dilshan had run them ragged last evening, cutting and pulling with abandon, and he began the same way by lashing Fidel Edwards' to the point boundary. However, he played one shot too soon and miscued a pull off the third ball of the morning, Denesh Ramdin ran to square leg to take the catch. Chaminda Vaas too fell to a top-edged hook, which was once again held by Ramdin.

With two wickets gone for seven, Chamara Silva was running out of partners. A lull followed as Sri Lanka went 21 balls without scoring before Silva accelerated, flicking Edwards to the fine-leg boundary before bringing up his fifty with a scorching cut. Thilan Thushara stuck around for 21 balls before a direct hit from Ramnaresh Sarwan caught him short. Muttiah Muralitharan, however, lasted only three deliveries; he top-edged his first ball over the wicketkeeper, slogged the second to over midwicket and sliced his next to third man where Bravo judged the catch to perfection.

With No. 11 for company, Silva tried to score at a brisk rate and West Indies could have ended the innings on 267 but Jerome Taylor dropped a simple caught-and-bowled. A meandering passage of play followed with Silva refusing singles and trying to shield Ishara Amerasinghe from the strike. As West Indies strived to end the partnership, Jerome Taylor sent down a beamer to Silva and had to be taken out of the attack because he had already bowled one at Dilshan last evening. Sri Lanka's innings ended via another top-edged pull from Silva and Powell held a well judged catch at long leg.

There was doubt over whether Gayle would open given his troubles against Vaas and he ended the speculation by coming out with the debutant Sewnarine Chattergoon. Vaas troubled both left-handers with the ball that seamed away off the pitch but there was no pressure from the other end. Gayle took on Amerasinghe, clipping him off the back foot to the midwicket boundary and pulling past mid-on in his first over and clouted consecutive boundaries in his second before being dropped by Muttiah Muralitharan at mid-on.

West Indies scored 49 before the lunch break but lost Gayle for 45 soon after the resumption when he steered Thushara straight to gully. Gayle had been doing most of the scoring but there was no let up in momentum because Ramnaresh Sarwan batted aggressively from the start. He began with a fierce cut to third man and concentrated on playing the inswingers from Vaas late, using the movement into him to push the ball through the leg side. He was also strong through the off, driving Thushara to long-on and then cover-driving to bring up the 100 in only the 18th over.

While Sarwan began at nearly a run-a-ball, Chattergoon started his innings patiently. He didn't try anything fancy and focused on rotating strike with Gayle and Sarwan. His first boundary came via an upper cut over slips and then he steered Vaas through point. Even Muralithraran, who was introduced in the 19th over, failed to make a breakthrough as the batsmen kept taking singles to keep scoring at over four an over. West Indies were 133 for 1 when rain forced the umpires to take tea early and the tide turned after play resumed.

Vaas ended the 79-run stand by bowled Chattergoon with one that straightened off the pitch to clip the top of off stump and after which Muralithraran picked up his first wicket, trapping Marlon Samuels lbw for 3 to reduce West Indies to 141 for 3. Sarwan remained firm and kept runs flowing with frequent boundaries: the two cover-drives off Vaas and the straight drive off Murali to bring up his fifty stood out. However, he eventually clipped Murali off his pads into the hands of Malinda Warnapura at leg gully.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul failed to make an impact, falling leg before to Thushara but Devon Smith and Dwayne Bravo batted sensibly to take closer to Sri Lanka's total. Smith started patiently, scoring 4 off 26 balls before opening out with consecutive drives off Thushara.

Murali was now in full flow and there were several appeals as Smith and Bravo struggled to read him. He eventually broke through Smith's defences with a doosra, a wicket which exposed West Indies' tail when they were within touching distance of Sri Lanka's first innings total.

West Indies v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Trinidad, 2nd day