The West Indies took control of the second Test on a rain-marred day three, with Sri Lanka’s hopes of taking a first-innings lead hanging by a thread.
Sri Lanka were 250/8 when rain halted play with the tourists still 104 runs behind.
The lone positive for Sri Lanka at the close of play was Pathum Nissanka’s presence at the crease, with the rookie unbeaten on 49.
Starting the day at 136/3 in reply to the West Indies’ total of 354, Sri Lanka’s main aim was reaching stumps with a first-innings lead established.
That looked a distinct possibility with Dinesh Chandimal and Dhananjaya de Silva both well set, having finished day two on 34 and 23 respectively.
However, the West Indies knew they were not too far away from Sri Lanka’s vulnerable tail and almost struck in the very first over of the day as Shannon Gabriel (1/33) drew an edge from Chandimal with a shorter delivery. The ball flew to the right of Rahkeem Cornwall at slip, who could not hold onto the diving effort.
But Gabriel did not have to wait too much longer for his first wicket of the match as the short ball ploy worked a trick against Chandimal. Dropped on 34, he pulled the fast bowler straight into the hands of deep square leg to fall for 44.
Fourteen overs later the West Indies stuck again as part-time off-spinner Jermaine Blackwood (1/16) struck with the first delivery of a new spell, dismissing Dhananjaya lbw for 39. To make matters worse for Sri Lanka, ball tracking suggested the delivery was going on to miss the leg stump but the batter had opted against the review.
A lengthy rain delay soon saw an early lunch taken as play was halted for an hour and a half.
Only nine overs were possible in the second session as the rain returned but the West Indies made the most of what little play there was, striking twice to expose the Sri Lankan tail.
It was the first wicket that mattered most as Jason Holder (2/39) drew an inside edge from Niroshan Dickwella, ending a dangerous 20 that came off just 25 balls. With the ball squeezing between bat and pad, the edge was missed by the on-field umpire before the West Indies wisely sent it upstairs.
With dark clouds looming, Alzarri Joseph (2/64) had Suranga Lakmal (6) caught at midwicket in the last meaningful moment before the heavens opened for a two-hour rain delay with Sri Lanka limping at 217/7, still 137 runs behind.
If not for the efforts of Nissanka in the company of the tail, their situation would have gotten even worse after play resumed.
Coming off a century on debut, Nissanka stood tall on Wednesday with an unbeaten 49.
He entrusted Dushmantha Chameera to hold his own against the fast bowlers but farmed the strike when Lasith Embuldeniya joined him in the middle, showing impressive maturity for a 22-year-old in just his second Test.
Chameera was struck twice by short deliveries before his brave 26-ball knock came to an end, edging Holder behind for two.
Offering more protection to Embuldeniya, Nissanka faced the bulk of the deliveries before rain ended the day’s play.
Nissanka will resume on day four with his eyes set on a second 50+ score in just his third Test innings and Sri Lanka’s hopes of reducing the deficit largely in his hands. (Story & Photos from ICC)