Explosive Gayle puts West Indies on top
West Indies 362 for 2 (Gayle 219*, Darren Bravo 58, Barath 50) v Sri Lanka
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
A scorching double ton from Chris Gayle and half centuries from Adrian Barath and debutant Darren Bravo led West Indies to a position of complete dominance in the first Test, as they ended the opening day on 362 for 2. Sri Lanka's modus operandi for Test matches at Galle has long been to bat first and bat big to put pressure on the opposition line-up, but it was the hosts who were at the receiving end of a stellar West Indian imitation of their tried and tested method for winning matches at the picturesque venue.
Gayle was blisteringly savage, particularly in the second session of the day. His unbeaten innings of 219 contained 26 fours and an incredible eight sixes - the most by a West Indies batsman in a single innings. He walloped the spinners over long on repeatedly in signature style, and was also especially brutal on the pull, once muscling a barely-short Ajantha Mendis delivery over the mid wicket boundary for six. The left hander plundered 25 runs in an astounding seven-ball burst to bring up his 13th Test match century, and his first in the subcontinent, and celebrated in unconventional style: lying down mid-pitch for a moment, perhaps to better soak in the applause from his teammates and spectators.
Everything Gayle did turned to gold. A lazy looking swat over cover carried all the way over the ropes and an outrageous reverse sweep off Suraj Randiv rocketed to the point fence. Nothing Sri Lanka did could halt the West Indies opener today and he rarely looked troubled at the crease, shaking off a spate of hopeful shouts towards the end of the day to continue his rampage towards 200, which he completed in just 221 deliveries. The celebrations were slightly more muted this time, with a wry smile and a raising of the bat sufficing.
Gayle found support in Adrian Barath in the first session of the day, who carefully batted out a testing opening spell from the Sri Lanka seamers, before making use of the excellent batting conditions to reach his second half century in Test cricket. There was little joy for the hosts' pacemen once the modest swing and seam movement on offer deserted them after the first half hour of play, a fact not helped by some indisciplined bowling on their part. A Randiv topspinner extracted some bounce from the flat Galle surface to get rid of Barath just minutes before lunch, but the West Indies innings continued to race along at close to 4 and a half runs an over after the break, as Gayle upped the ante and Darren Bravo held firm at the other end.
Bravo's 58 was a technician's dream in comparison to Gayle's unorthodox magnificence, the young left-hander cover driving the spinners beautifully to the fence each time the ball was tossed up. He also negotiated the fast bowlers without a fuss, making use of some defensive fields to rotate the strike to his more bloody-minded partner, who unleashed from the other end. The debutant brought up his half century with another cracking cover drive off Mendis after tea, but perished trying to pull the same bowler soon after as a top edge ballooned to Thilan Samaraweera at square leg, who backpedalled to take a good catch.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul arrived at the crease with the score already on 306 for 2 and played out the final period of the day without incident with Gayle, who couldn't resist making use of some tired Sri Lankan bowling to pick up some late runs. The hosts will be hoping for the wicket of Chris Gayle and a vastly improved bowling performance in tomorrow's morning session if they are to have any chance of wresting back control of a game that is fast slipping out of reach.