So the much anticipated Ashes series has begun down under, nonetheless the contest in Sri Lanka is still on as well. Impressed with the way things went on the first day as Sri Lanka won the toss and made the decision to bat but were soon made to struggle after their top order collapsed in quick succession to Roach and Sammy’s pace and left them reeling at 34/3. But this tossup by the Sri Lankans was soon eradicated as the skipper came in to bat and made a solid partnership for the 4th wicket. The West Indian bowling attack had a lot on their shoulders on the second day and saw Kumar Sangakkara getting to a score of 150. Their declaration came at 387/9 and the West Indies got to 165/5 on the 3rd day before rain put a damper on things at the Premadasa Stadium eventually being the main cause of this test ending in a draw. No rain, in my honest opinion would have ensured a Sri Lanka victory judging from the batting we got from the Windies.
It was a completely different show to what we saw at Galle. Except for Darren Bravo, who impressed with his quick fire innings of 80. The familiar batting collapse was clearly evident. But despite all of the confusion, I was totally blown away by 21 year-old Darren Bravo who, like last week, made a fruitful and much needed contribution to his team. Coming in at his No.3 position to bat once more in what is only his 2nd test, one noticed all the traits and similarities that would connect to Brian Lara. The shots, the famous cover drive, the foot placement, the left-handed stance and the backlift were all there. Not to forget that the Bravo brothers as well as Brian all hail from the same village of Cantaro in Santa Cruz in the north of Trinidad. And to make things more interesting, there is even relation between the two as Darren’s mum and Brian are in fact cousins. Darren and Dwayne however both have different mums. My heart sunk when he got out on 80. There were screams of support from my house at 2 in the morning to support the youngster as he had been pushing for his century and hit sixes off both Mendis and Herath with style and grace that was epically reminiscent. A half century in his first test and a century in the 2nd test would have surely been a significant achievement. His innings in this test was exceptionally played and is worthy of being proud of! He has been dubbed as one who would have a role to play in the future of West Indies cricket along with the other promising youngsters that are now starting to make their way onto the scene in the Caribbean.
I had mentioned in my previous article that I had no solid basis in understanding why and how Carlton Baugh had been called up for the Sri Lanka series despite being unimpressive in the regional tournaments recently. Seeing that the team was in a bit of a dilemma on the 5th day as play resumed after heavy rains on the 3rd and 4th day, a quick half century from him was enough to help the boys avoid the follow on. Things were noticeably shaky for the boys in Colombo. I also noticed a flurry of dropped catches and misfielding which turned out to have dire consequences at later stages of the game. Roach came out of this match with 5 wickets in the bag, 2 for Sammy and 1 each for Bravo and Benn, who replaced Andre Russell in this test after finally coming off suspension for his bad boy behaviour in Barbados against South Africa. There were no wickets from Shillingford this week after all the recent speculation of his arm.
Sangakkara’s tactic of declaring at 57/1 in the 2nd innings was an odd one but I think if there was more time available in the test, damage would have been done to the Windies since the batting started off poorly once more and in the wrong direction. They were at 12/2 when it was decided that the match would end in a draw. The rain indeed helped save the West Indies in this match otherwise it would have eagerly gone in Sri Lanka’s favour. Sammy stated that the team did not play to their fullest potential but yet he is happy about the ethical side of things. He added that pride will be restored in the West Indies however it is not an overnight affair but instead, an arduous task.
Again, I have to reemphasise on the need for maintaining consistency which the team needs to develop. I was right about the batting collapse that was still haunting them. And I hope that there will be a turnaround as time progresses. On to the final test in Pallekele. All the best to the boys.