West Indies were left needing ten wickets on Good Friday to win the second Test and clinch the two-match series after captain Kraigg Brathwaite, his predecessor Jason Holder and rookie Kyle Mayers all lashed half-centuries to spearhead a clinical victory bid on Thursday’s penultimate day.
Brathwaite followed up his first-innings 126 with an accomplished top score of 85 while Holder struck an unbeaten 71 and Mayers an up-tempo 55 as the home side, armed with a first-innings lead of 96, declared their second innings on 280 for four, just over 45 minutes before the close at the Vivian Richards Cricket Ground.
Faced with a tricky nine overs at the end, left-handers Lahiru Thirimanne (17 not out) and Dimuth Karunaratne (11 not out) denied the West Indies bowlers any success by steering the innings to 29 without loss, bolstering Sri Lanka’s chances of saving the affair.
The visitors will require a further 345 runs on the final day to win the contest but will be focussed more on survival than an unlikely victory.
Brathwaite conceded afterward that hard work lay ahead but urged his side to stay disciplined.
“We just wanted to get a few overs in this evening, obviously a tough period for openers to bat,” Brathwaite said.
“We wanted to run at them for nine overs and look to get one or two wickets. It didn’t materialise but tomorrow is a very important day for us.”
He added: “The runs on the board are good. It won’t be easy. I still think the pitch is decent so we’ve got to work hard tomorrow and make West Indies proud.”
West Indies had earlier needed all of 23 deliveries to wrap up the Sri Lanka first innings for 258, seamer Kemar Roach removing Pathum Nissanka for 51 and tail-ender Vishwa Fernando without scoring in the space of three balls in the fourth over of the day, to end with three for 58.
But West Indies then suffered an early setback when left-hander opener John Campbell advanced to pacer Suranga Lakmal (2-62) in the seventh over, checked his defensive stroke and got an edge behind to fall for 10 with 24 runs on the board.
As he did in the first innings, Brathwaite then anchored the innings, posting 44 for the second wicket with Jermaine Blackwood (18) before inspiring successive half-century stands with Mayers and Holder.
Blackwood, without a significant score in the series, struck two fours in just over an hour at the crease before feathering a cut behind off seamer Dushmantha Chameera (2-74), about 25 minutes before lunch.
Brathwaite and Mayers buckled down in an 82-run, third-wicket stand which carried West Indies to lunch on 69 for two and allowed them to flourish in the first hour after the resumption.
On nine at lunch, Mayers raced to his second Test half-century off 63 balls on the stroke of the drinks break when he dispatched Lakmal to the mid-wicket boundary.
He had struck eight fours and faced 76 balls in nearly 1-¾ hours when he was lbw to Lakmal, in the fourth over following the resumption from drinks.
Brathwaite and Holder then combined in an 87-run, fourth-wicket partnership to further put the game out of Sri Lanka’s reach, and take the Windies to tea on 173 for three.
Dropped on 34 at short leg off Chameera, Brathwaite went on to hit four fours off 196 balls in five hours while Holder notched his tenth Test fifty, facing only 88 deliveries in 2-¼ hours and counting seven fours.
Unbeaten at tea on 60, Brathwaite looked a sure bet for another hundred in the match before he was bowled trying to clip a full-length delivery from Chameera exactly an hour after tea.
Holder and wicketkeeper Joshua Da Silva, who was not out on 20 when the declaration came, put on 53 in an unbroken fifth-wicket stand, heaping further pressure on an already frustrated Sri Lanka late in the day.