A patient century from Thilan Samaraweera helped Sri Lanka recover to 268 all out at the close of play on the third day of the second Test on Saturday, setting West Indies a victory target of 253.
The tourists were reeling at 99-6 but a seventh-wicket stand of 138 between Samaraweera (125) and Chaminda Vaas (45) hauled Sri Lanka back into the game and the pressure will now be on West Indies batsmen on a track showing plenty of life.
Samaraweera said that he and Vaas had initially looked at making a target of 150 to give Sri Lanka a fighting chance but now he rated his side favourites.
”We talked about 150 at first, then 200 and 250. Anything can happen in a second innings with uneven bounce and we have a world-class spinner in [Muttiah] Muralitharan.
”The new ball is the key, if we can get a couple of early wickets and then we have a special spinner, my thought is that we will definitely win,” he added.
Earlier Muralitharan (5-79) picked up two of the last three wickets in the morning session to dismiss West Indies for 294, a first-innings lead of 16 for the home team.
Sri Lanka then slumped to 4-2, Malinda Warnapura caught by Sewnarine Chattergoon at third slip for a duck as he poked at a rising delivery from the fiery Jerome Taylor.
Taylor then ran out Michael Vandort for one in superb style, pouncing on a ball pushed to mid-on by Kumar Sangakkara and leaving the opener stranded with a direct hit.
Sri Lanka’s woes continued when skipper Mahela Jayawardene (12) chopped at a ball from Fidel Edwards and got an inside edge on to his stumps.
Daren Powell claimed the next victim when Sangakkara (14) cut a rising delivery for Samuels to take a fine diving catch in the gully.
Tillakaratne Dilshan, who held together Sri Lanka’s batting in the first innings, set about steadying the ship and he put on 41 with Samaraweera for the fifth wicket.
Taylor then cut a ball back between bat and pad to bowl Dilshan for 25, a breakthrough that was followed after lunch by the removal of Chamara Silva for 13.
With Vaas playing a good supporting role, Samaraweera carefully selected his shots to reach his hundred in 173 balls with 15 fours.
Vaas finally fell, caught behind off captain Chris Gayle’s off spin, before Thilan Thushara (10) was also caught behind off Dwayne Bravo.
Samaraweera’s 199-ball knock came to an end near the close when he was run out after more superb work from Samuels in the deep.
Taylor finished with 4-52.
West Indies coach John Dyson said if his team applied themselves with the bat on Sunday they should reach their target and tie the two-Test series 1-1.
”If we bat sensibly and well, I expect us to get the total,” said the Australian.
”It is really time, this is the opportunity for one of our experienced batsmen to put up his hand and say, ‘Hey, I am going to win this match.’
”What I would like to see is some good sensible batting throughout the whole day.” — Reuters