Vaas leads Sri Lankan fightback
Daren Powell successfully grabbed the bowling spotlight from his troubled new-ball colleague Jermaine Lawson with a career-best performance that left Sri Lanka red-faced and under pressure after their third unconvincing batting performance against a side missing ten leading players. Local pre-match hopes that Sri Lanka would cruise to a 2-0 series win were quickly extinguished as they were bowled out for a pathetic 150 in 46.1 overs.
However, Chaminda Vaas struck back almost immediately for Sri Lanka, taking 3 for 15 during a fine opening burst either side of the tea interval that left West Indies in tatters on 27 for 4. When Vaas trapped the shuffling Shivnarine Chanderpaul (13) lbw, their only Test class batsman, it looked like Sri Lanka could finish on top despite Daren Powell's careeer best 5 for 25.
Vaas's removal from the attack, though, after a seven-over burst - a spell shortened by the hangover of his flu - gave them a chance to regroup. Sylvester Joseph (18), who was moved down into the middle order after the inclusion of Ryan Ramdass for a first Test cap, and Narsingh Deonarine frustrated Sri Lanka with a 48 run partnership. Marvan Atapattu was not helped by Muttiah Muralitharan's unavailability: he was so weakened by flu that he sent down a succession of long hops in a two-over first spell.
But Vaas, after a relatively unthreatening spell from Gayan Wijekoon, a bits-and-pieces allrounder that has so far failed to catch the eye with either bat or ball, returned to the attack. Sure enough, he broke through once more, needing just four balls to find the end of Joseph's bat. Tillakaratne Dilshan hoovered up a sharp low catch at second slip (75 for 5).
Deonarine (36 not out) and Denesh Ramdin (eight not out) kept Vaas at bay until the close, leaving West Indies with a sniff of first innings parity, now trailing by 58 runs.
While Vaas starred in the evening, the first two sessions belonged to Powell and Tino Best. With Lawson looking a shadow of the bowler that took 8 for 102 in the first Test, unsurprisingly so considering the clouds over his bowling action, Powell and Best rose to the occasion after Chanderpaul gambled at the toss and bowled first on the brown, grassless pitch that offered the prospect of extravagant turn later in the game.
Sanath Jayasuriya, one of five players who have been struggling with a flu virus in the lead-up to the game, started the slide, albeit blamelessly so because he was unfortunate to be given out caught behind by Simon Taufel. There was a noise as the ball zipped past a defensive bat, but television replays suggested this was from his bat hitting pad, not ball hitting bat (3 for 1).
Sangakkara, though, had no-one to blame but himself for a wild, reckless slash outside his off-stump to a wide but good-length ball from Powell. The ball whistled into the slips where Runako Morton, moving fast and high to his right, guzzled a sharp catch. West Indies, for the third time in the series, were celebrating with a mixture of elation and surprise as Sri Lanka's top order wobbled.
Powell came agonisingly close to a third wicket, but Deonarine could not hold onto a relatively straightforward chance at short leg as Atapattu fended off a brutish delivery. But Atapattu (17) did not last much longer before Best, the great showman of the side, bowled him with an inswinger first up, a ball that zipped back through the gate and knocked back his off-stump (35 for 3).
It got worse before it got better for Sri Lanka. Jayawardene, a batting hero in the second innings of the first Test, creamed one boundary but then edged to slip, a dismissal that prompted some excited gesticulations from a delighted and pumped-up Best. Sri Lanka were left wobbling on 42 for 4, once again embarrassed by experienced opponents.
Fortunately for the hosts, Tillakaratne Dilshan was in fine form and determined to play positively. He unleashed a series of stylish strokes, taking 15 from one over by Best, to claw Sri Lanka back into a game that was already hinting at an early finish. Dilshan sped to 36 from 48 balls and was supported well by Thilan Samaraweera (37) who dropped anchor.
But just when Dilshan and Samaweera looked to have pulled Sri Lanka back into the game, adding 56 in 76 balls, Chanderpaul turned back to Best. His first ball was carved over slip for four but his second was worked into the leg-side. Samaraweera set-off, hesitated, and then sent Dilshan back. Best sprinted to the ball and threw down the stumps on the turn to leave Dilshan millimetres short of his ground.
Dilshan's dismissal was crucial, opening up the tail. Chaminda Vaas, the new No 7, miscued a pull stroke and then Samaraweera and Gayan Wikekoon tried to eke their side out of the hole. But the afternoon drinks break and the return of the lively Powell hurried the innings to a close. Powell finished with 5 for 25 and Best 3 for 50.
West Indies could not have made a worse and more amateurish start to their reply as Ramdass and Xavier Marshall were left eyeball-to-eyeball at the strikers end after a horrible communication breakdown. Ramdass's ignominious start to his Test career was followed next ball by more self-destruction as Marshall drove a half-volley straight to mid off (9 for 2).
After the break, Vaas continued to torment West Indies top order, some of whom resorted to batting three foot outside their crease to stop his lethal inswing. But Sri Lanka countered that by Kumar Sangakkara standing up to the stumps and, in truth, Vaas's next two wickets owed less to swing than misjudgements as Morton shoulder arms and Chanderpaul shuffled right in front of his stumps.
Sanath Jayasuriya c Ramdin b Powell 2 (3 for 1)
Dubiously adjudged to have nicked delivery after a defensive push
Kumar Sangakkara c Morton b Powell 6 (17 for 2)
Wild slash to second slip
Marvan Atapattu b Best 17 (35 for 3)
Wide-of-the-crease inswinger through the gate, hit off stump
Mahela Jayawardene c Morton b Best (42 for 4)
Edged a cover-drive to slip
Tillakaratne Dilshan run out (Best) 36 (98 for 5)
Sent back too late by Samarweera
Chaminda Vaas c Ramdass b Best 6 (107 for 6)
Miscued pull and a dolly catch to mid-on
Thilan Samaraweera c Deonarine b Banks 37 (127 for 7)
Caught off the face of the bat at short leg
Rangana Herath c Ramdin b Powell 1 (130 for 8)
Pushed tentatively at off-stump delivery
Gayan Wijekoon c Ramdass b Powell 14 (143 for 9)
Miscued ambitious pull stroke
Lasith Malinga c Ramdin b Powell 0 (150 for 10)
Ryan Ramdass run out (Lasith Malinga) 3 (9 for 1)
Run out after horrible mix-up left both batsmen at same end
Xavier Marshall c Atapattu b Vaas 4 (9 for 2)
Mistimed driver straight to mid off
Runako Morton b Vaas 1 (12 for 3)
Shouldered arms to inswinger that clipped off bail
Shivnarine Chanderpaul lbw Vaas 13 (27 for 4)
Shuffled across his stumps and played across the line
Sylvester Joseph c Dilshan b Vaas 18 (75 for 5)
Pushed at off-cutter and snicked low to second slip
Charlie Austin is Cricinfo's Sri Lankan correspondent