Karunaratne, Mathews fifties help Sri Lanka set West Indies 348 to win
November 24, 2021 03:48 pm
Sri Lanka have set the West Indies a target of 348 to win the Galle Test, declaring 25 minutes before tea after scoring 107 runs at above six an over in the post-lunch session on the fourth day. Sri Lanka’s declaration followed a slog sweep for six by Angelo Mathews, who remained unbeaten on 69 off 84 deliveries.
Dimuth Karunaratne once more top-scored for Sri Lanka with a 104-ball 83, in what was his sixth straight 50-plus score in Tests - he has crossed 50 seven times this year in seven Tests, and gone on to reach three figures five times, including the career-best 244 against Bangladesh in Pallekele in April. He, however, fell short of making back-to-back centuries in this Test, edging a cut off Rahkeem Cornwall that looped to first slip via the keeper’s gloves. Dhananjaya De Silva was the only other wicket to fall after lunch, when he offered a return catch to Jomel Warrican.
Warrican and Cornwall ended the innings with two wickets apiece, and West Indies now need to complete a record chase - the highest total successfully chased in Galle was the 268 Sri Lanka ran down against New Zealand in 2019 - or bat out a little over four sessions, though rain is expected.
In the morning, with the sun shining in Galle, Sri Lanka tightened their grip on the Test, extending their lead to 240 by lunch.
Karunaratne, in particular, looked in good nick, growing in confidence after a circumspect start against some tight bowling from the spinners. Mathews, at the other end, also looked comfortable, a late cut past backward point the highlight of the early part of his innings so far.
West Indies, though, did their best with Warrican and Cornwall keeping things more or less in control, and threatening the batters once in a way, in the morning. Cornwall, especially, troubled the batters with his sharp turn and extra bounce. And his efforts were duly rewarded, as one flighted on middle and leg coaxed Pathum Nissanka into a sweep. Nissanka could only manage to glove it through to Shai Hope at leg slip, who threw his right hand out to complete an excellent catch. Nissanka then proceeded to convince his captain at the other end to burn a review.
Warrican, meanwhile, was responsible for the only other wicket of the session, trapping Oshada Fernando plumb in front, after the batter had failed to make contact with one that went straight on with the arm. Oshada, who would graft a 32-ball 14, hadn’t looked comfortable at the crease, his determination to employ the sweep - despite some half-a-dozen failed attempts - only compounding matters.
West Indies might have had more wickets had it not been for some uncertain decision making. After an ill-advised early review against Karunaratne, who was rapped on the pads outside off stump - though not offering a stroke - only for replays to show the ball missing the stumps by a considerable margin, the West Indies became extremely hesitant to use DRS.
This hurt them on two occasions. The first was a missed Oshada sweep that brought about a fervent appeal from wicketkeeper Joshua Da Silva. The review remained untaken, only for replays to show that Oshada may have gotten the faintest of touches.
While that didn’t prove too costly, the next one very well might. Cornwall hit Karunaratne on the pads, but none of the West Indians seemed confident enough to challenge the umpire’s assertion that the ball had pitched outside leg. No review again, only for replays to show that the ball had indeed pitched in line and likely would have hit off stump.
Earlier in the morning, it took just over 15 minutes for Sri Lanka to remove the final West Indian wicket and secure a healthy first-innings lead. Following a rain-delayed start on the fourth morning, Sri Lanka picked up the second new ball first thing and went on the offensive against Da Silva and Gabriel with the spin duo of Lasith Embuldeniya and Praveen Jayawickrama.
Of the two, Jayawickrama looked the more likely to pick up the last wicket, having beaten the outside edge of both batters numerous times, and he was rewarded in the end. Gabriel was trapped lbw after being caught flush on the toe by one that