GALLE – Lion-hearted opener Chris Gayle smashed several longstanding records en route to a career-best 333, but a clatter of wickets in the final session marred an outstanding West Indies performance on the second day of the opening Test against Sri Lanka yesterday.
The 31-year-old left-hander, resuming the day on 219, fashioned a Herculean effort in carving out the highest score by a West Indies batsman overseas, as West Indies marched to an imposing 580 for nine declared at Galle International Stadium.
At the close, Sri Lanka were 54 for one after pacer Andre Russell plucked out opener Tillakaratne Dilshan without scoring, with only his second delivery in Test cricket.
For the second day running, however, centre stage belonged to Gayle. In a marathon innings spanning ten and a half hours, the giant Jamaican faced 437 balls and struck 34 fours and nine sixes, to become only the fourth batsman in history to score 300 twice in their career.
His heroics were spoilt somewhat in the last session when mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis snatched six for 169 to spark a middle and lower order collapse, which saw six Windies wickets tumble for 21 runs in the space of just 53 balls.
By then, the damage had been done and when Gayle finally trudged from the field to a long ovation from spectators and fielders alike after he played a tired defensive stroke and was bowled by Mendis, Sri Lanka’s bowlers grabbed the opportunity to dominate for the first time.
Resuming at his overnight 219 with the Windies on 362 for two, Gayle was more disciplined than he was dominant, adding a mere 36 runs during the session with a measured, watchful approach.
West Indies added only 67 runs from 30 overs as Sri Lanka’s bowlers, led by off-spinner Suraj Randiv, applied the brakes on the scoring.
Randiv, tormented by Gayle on the previous day, accounted for the only wicket to fall in the session when he had Shivnarine Chanderpaul caught at slip for 32 by Mahela Jayawardene at 392 for three.
Gayle survived a huge lbw shout – and a subsequent referral – off the day’s first ball from Mendis but proceeded to gather his runs with uncharacteristic serenity, in an 86-run, third wicket partnership with the equally subdued Chanderpaul who resumed on 20.
At 222, Gayle surpassed the legendary Brian Lara’s 221 for the highest score by a West Indian against Sri Lanka achieved nine years ago, and continued to score quietly before picking up his first boundary of the morning with a thunderous pull off left-arm seamer Dammika Pradad in the day’s eighth over.
He added another record when he reached 238, the highest score recorded at the venue, overtaking Mahela Jaywardene’s previous best of 237 six years ago.
Chanderpaul, too, captured his piece of history when he passed 9 000 runs in Tests on reaching 31, becoming only the tenth batsman in history to join the prestigious club.
The veteran left-hander added just one more, however, before attempting to cut one too close to him and edging Randiv to slip where Jayawardene held a sharp chance, his second of the innings.
Vice-captain Brendan Nash then joined Gayle to add a further 167 for the fourth wicket, a partnership that ensured Gayle reached his milestone.
A tentative Nash, who stroked 64, spent 30 balls over his three runs before collecting his first boundary when he whipped a full toss from Mendis through mid-wicket.
Gayle appropriately raised the 400 with a lofted boundary over mid-off off seamer Thilan Thushara, before edging the fifth ball of the over through a vacant second slip for his third four, to move to 249. A single off the next ball carried him to 250 off 308 balls
Gayle enjoyed a huge slice of luck on 287 when he attempted to turn a short ball from Prasad into the onside and skied a simple catch to Kumar Sangakkara at mid off.
Subsequent replays, however, showed that Prasad had overstepped, turning Sri Lanka’s joy into mourning as no-ball was signalled.
Buoyed by the reprieve, Gayle marched on past Sir Vivian Richards’ 291, for 34 years the highest score by a West Indian on foreign soil, and eventually raised his 300 when he split cover with a superb front-foot drive off Mendis. (CMC)