Sangakkara ton puts Sri Lanka in charge
Kumar Sangakkara's eighth Test hundred, and his first at his old school ground of Asgiriya Stadium, propelled Sri Lanka into a position of dominance on the third day at Kandy. His patience may have been tested by a series of rain breaks that occurred throughout the day, and the West Indies attack bowled with a fair amount of heart on a difficult surface, but Sangakkara was more than a match for anything that was thrown at him. At close of play, Sri Lanka were 340 for 7, with a lead of 342. Given the weather and pitch conditions expected over the final two days, whatever target Marvan Atapattu chooses to set for the visitors from now on should be well beyond the realms of the gettable.
Batting on the third day was never going to be easy, with the continuous threat of rain hovering around the stadium, and the pitch being less than ideal. Sangakkara's workmanlike innings of 135 not out, however, belied the problems faced by other batsmen and in the process, blunted the three-pronged West Indian pace attack. Cautious and compact throughout the first two mini-sessions, he bloomed in the post-tea phase of the day. Sangakkara did not look out of his depth at any point of time, and his century, the first hundred from either team this series, will be cherished for a lot more than just the connection to his Alma Mater.
Aid and accomplice to Sangakkara for most of the day was Tillakaratne Dilshan, whose 49 included some fiercely struck blows. The two batsmen shared a 109-run stand with fairly even contributions, and amazingly enough, it was also the first century partnership from either side in the series. But just as he began to display glimpses of the cricketing talent that could some day turn him from a decent batsman to a very good one, Dilshan guided Omari Banks into the hands of Runako Morton at slip. After a solid foundation, the stroke seemed an absolute waste, and raised a number of questions that Dilshan himself will have to answer in the days to come.
The West Indies bowlers were steady without being necessarily brilliant. Jermaine Lawson picked up two wickets in his opening over in the morning, but found the going tougher and tougher as Sangakkara and Dilshan dug in deep. Daren Powell received some late reward with the wicket of Gayan Wijekoon, and Tino Best bowled with typical spunk until he lost his head in an over to Sangakkara, giving away two fours and a wide ball that flew over the batsman and the keeper on its way to the boundary.
Play began at 11.45am local time after sporadic rain in Kandy put paid to plans of an early morning start. Mahela Jayawardene added just five to his overnight 38, before he was bowled by Lawson, having completely misread the line of the ball, which duly penetrated the gap between bat and pad. Thilan Samaraweera lasted two deliveries before he was caught behind down the leg side without scoring, with the team score on 151. Two rain breaks interspersed some cat-and mouse cricket. The West Indies bowlers pegged away determinedly, while the Sri Lankan batsmen were in no mood to throw away their wickets before the showers came.
The post-tea session was the longest in the game, and it just was the uninterrupted period that Sangakkara and Dilshan needed to get stuck into the West Indies bowling. Dilshan's dismissal brought about the entrance of Wijekoon, who was targeted from the start by Powell and Best. He finally succumbed to his own hesitation as much to a ball from Powell that first pushed him back, and then shot through his defences, hitting both bad and pad, before cannoning into the stumps. An injured Chaminda Vaas hit three boundaries in an enterprising knock of 19, before losing the ball in an attempt to sweep Banks. That made the score 321 for 7 which, for all intents and purposes, should be more than enough.
Sri Lanka second innings
Mahela Jayawardene b Lawson 43 (155 for 3)
Misread the line of a delivery that bowled him through the gate
Thilan Samaraweera c Ramdin b Lawson 0 (101 for 7)
Nicked ball travelling down leg on its way to the keeper
Tillakaratne Dilshan c Morton b Banks 49 (264 for 5)
Attempted a glide down to third man, and ended up edging it to slip
Gayan Wijekoon b Powell 12 (278 for 6)
Tried to fend off a short ball that wasn't really short; ball hit bat and pad before stumps
Chaminda Vaas b Banks 19 (321 for 7)
Edged a sweep on to his pads, the ball trickled on to the stumps