To the rescue
PALLEKELE – Fickle weather again intruded, after Darren Bravo and Devon Smith posted half-centuries to help West Indies recover from Chris Gayle’s first-ball dismissal in the third and final Test against Sri Lanka yesterday.
Bravo was unbeaten on 63, and Smith made 55, as West Indies, sent in to bat, reached 134 for two in their first innings, when bad light stopped play with a minimum of 22 overs remaining on the weather-affected opening day.
Left-handers Bravo and Smith added 115 for the second wicket on a day when only 40 overs were possible due to rain.
West Indies suffered a huge setback with the first delivery of the inaugural Test on a hard, true Pallekele International Stadium pitch, after the weather delayed the start by an hour and 40 minutes.
Gayle was lbw for a duck to a well-pitched delivery, from Suranga Lakmal, which straightened, trapping the left-handed opener leg before wicket. But Bravo, with scores of 58 in Galle and 80 in the Colombo Test behind him, came to the crease, and eased the tension.
He batted fluently in spite of the stoppages, a dropped chance, and a referral to lead West Indies’ revival in a 111-ball innings.
Bravo, playing in only his third Test, started his innings with three boundaries. He languidly drove Angelo Mathews through cover for his first to get off the mark, sliced the next ball between third slip and gully for his second, and flicked the fourth ball of the next over from Lakmal to deep backward square-leg for his third.
Smith, a replacement for the flu-stricken Adrian Barath, and one of two changes to the West Indies line-up with pacer Nelon Pascal coming in for off-spinner Shane Shillingford, emerged from a circumspect start to gain a boost of confidence, with a couple of rasping boundaries just before the interval.
He pulled short deliveries from spinner Ajantha Mendis and fast bowler Dilhara Fernando through mid-wicket, as West Indies went to lunch on 45 for one.
After the interval, the runs continued to flow for the two West Indies left-handers, particularly Bravo.
His fifth boundary through mid-wicket off Mathews brought up the visitors’ 50 in the 19th over.
Three balls later, Bravo drove the same bowler through cover for an imperious, sixth boundary before slapping a seventh boundary off Mathews through square-cover.
He and Smith were just getting into the thick of things, when the weather advanced after 8.3 overs, and the umpires offered the players temporary refuge, with West Indies on 69 for one.
The stoppage lasted nearly two hours, prompting an early tea, and when the players returned to the field, it proved to be a dramatic period.
Bravo duly completed his 50 from 84 balls, with the fifth of his nine fours, a deft leg-glance to the deep fine-leg boundary off Fernando, the only change to Sri Lanka’s line-up, following a side strain that ruled out fellow fast bowler Nuwan Kulasekara.
Smith started to flow in the younger Bravo’s slipstream, but he was fortunate that Thilan Samaraweera dropped a difficult, low chance off Fernando at square-cover, when he was on 45.
Next over, Smith reached his 50 from 94 balls, when he slapped a delivery from Mendis to deep cover for a single.
In the following over, Bravo’s heart may have skipped a beat on 56, when the Sri Lankans challenged umpire Bruce Oxenford’s not-out decision for a caught behind off Fernando, but TV replays were inconclusive.
Things reached an apex, when Smith played back and across to a flat, fast, well-pitched delivery from Mendis, and was adjudged lbw. He struck seven fours from 100 balls.
The drama continued to unfold, when Bravo edged a loose drive at a delivery from Fernando, and Mahela Jayawardene dropped him at third slip on 56.
Bravo and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, not out on 11, batted through another six overs until Oxenford and fellow umpire Asad Rauf offered them the refuge of the dressing rooms.
The three-Test series between the two sides is level 0-0, after the first two Tests at the Galle International Stadium and the Premadasa Stadium were both drawn. (CMC/EZS)