Sri Lanka retained the Sobers-Tissera trophy after a nail-biting finish in the opening Test against West Indies here in Galle yesterday. The victory margin of 187 runs may suggest that this was a comfortable win but in fact, the hosts were racing against time with rains threatening to come down anytime. Minutes after the final wicket fell, the heavens opened and the post match presentation was forced indoors. It is unlikely that play would have resumed after the rain interruption.
Skipper Dimuth Karunaratne was a relieved man. “Weather gods were kind to us I guess. Very funny it was as two minutes after we took the last wicket, it started raining. Very happy that we could finish off just before rain.”
With the win, Sri Lanka collected 12 points in the World Test Championship.
Realistically, Sri Lanka needed four wickets in 98 overs to win the game, but rain and bad light had spoiled day three and four and more wet weather was predicted on the final day. So, Sri Lanka had to knock off the tail soon.
West Indies had got off to a horrendous start in their second innings as they were reduced to 18 for six. From thereon, they put up a remarkable fight back.
Joshua da Silva and Nkrumah Bonner ensured that West Indies did not lose further wickets on day four and they batted for two more hours on the final day to deny Sri Lanka any success. Four dropped catches helped their cause but more importantly their footwork against spin was classy and the top order has much to learn from them.
Da Silva, a 23-year-old from Trinidad was technically brilliant giving West Indies much needed depth at lower down the order while Jamaican Bonner showed maturity and patience during the 100 run partnership.
Both batsmen reached half-centuries and Bonner went onto top score with 68 not out.
Da Silva fell for Embuldeniya 15 minutes to go for lunch as Dhananjaya de Silva completed the catch at slip. That was just the opening Sri Lanka wanted.
After lunch, Sri Lanka invited Rahkeem Cornwall to go over the top bringing mid-on and mid-off up. He took the bait and trying to send Praveen Jayawickrama to the Dutch built Galle Ramparts mistimed the hit and was caught by Suranga Lakmal peddling backwards.
There was not much resistance from number ten and eleven as Embuldeniya polished the tail to finish with a five wicket haul. Ramesh Mendis bowled superbly finishing with four wickets.
Karunaratne with scores of 147 and 83 in the game was named Man of the Match. “I was a bit worried leading into the Test match. I had not played a First Class game for more than six months and even in the few domestic one-day games I played, I couldn’t get going. But something told me that if I get a good start, I will go onto get a big one. It was a nervous start but I gained confidence the more I batted,” he said.
West Indies skipper Kraigg Brathwaite requested his batsmen to put their hands up. “Tremendous fight back by the lower order. Top order batsmen need to learn from them. The first innings total is always important. We did not do well in the first innings and were under pressure from that point. It was important for us to get closer to their score and we let ourselves down there. We need to have clarity on our batting. Not just big shots but we have to defend confidently too. Hopefully, we can work on that area next week in the second Test.”
The teams will remain in Galle as the second Test too will be played here starting next week.