November 24, 2001

West Indians face fight for survival after latest capitulation

The sun finally shone in Kandy, but that did not brighten the mood of the West Indian players, who suffered yet another batting collapse; a capitulation that squashed any faint hopes of squaring this Janashkathi National Test series and leaves them with a desperate fight for survival tomorrow.

This morning a draw appeared a near certainty after two rain-ruined days, but Sri Lanka dominated the day to such extent that they now have a good chance to finish off the Kandy jinx.

Sri Lanka bowled out West Indies for 191 and then added 128 for one in their second innings to finish the day with a healthy 225 run lead on a pitch that is offering both the pace bowlers and spinners encouragement.

With Brian Lara waiting in the wings, setting totals is a dangerous business and no easy targets will be offered tomorrow. Sri Lankan coach Dav Whatmore said afterwards that they were looking at 300-odd in 80 overs (105 overs are scheduled tomorrow) depending on how quickly they are able to score.

In normal circumstances, the West Indies would be expected to salvage a draw. But so meekly did the batsmen play today that a further calamitous performance cannot be ruled out.

After three innings so far in the tour, there is the widespread belief that the West Indies fifth wicket signals the eminent innings close. In Galle the last five wickets yielded just 25 and 13 runs respectively. Here, they realised 24 runs.

One dare not wonder their plight had Brian Lara not been batting somewhere near his regal best. He followed scores of 178 and 44 in Galle with a brilliant 74 before he was last man out today.

West Indies, starting the fourth day on 39 for one, lost regular wickets throughout their 66.5 over innings. The early damage was inflicted by Muttiah Muralitharan, who took three wickets in the morning and four in all, but the most eye-catching performance came from Chaminda Vaas.

Vaas, normally the team's journeyman, has been working hard during the last 12 months to try to master the art of reverse swing. Today he showed he had gone a long way towards learning that devastating skill, as the old ball bent all over the place in a final six over burst that yielded four wickets (6-3-12-4).

He was pulled into the attack by acting captain Marvan Atapattu after a frustrating 41 stand between Lara and Ridley Jacobs, who had swept his way to 24. Second ball, though, he dragged the ball onto his stumps.

Mervyn Dillon, back in good health after his mystery chest injury, then played and missed four times before edging a low catch to Kumar Sangakkara behind the stumps.

Vaas's next ball veered into Dinanath Ramnarine's pads at the last moment and umpire John Hampshire upheld the appeal. Pedro Collins averted a hat-trick but was also trapped lbw for a 21-minute duck.

Vaas should also have been awarded the wicket of Lara, with another sharp inswinger, but it did not prove expensive. Lara left high and dry by his colleagues, tried to farm the strike, but was eventually trapped lbw by Muralitharan.

Earlier in the day, Ramnaresh Sarwan started the Caribbean procession in Muralitharan's second over of the morning, as he lost his balance and was bowled through the gate for 17.

Chris Gayle had looked in prime form last night, hitting the ball with tremendous power. This morning he started more cautiously, but having finally opened his boundary count with two rollicking drives off Vaas and then Muralitharan, he flailed wildly at an inswinger from Nuwan Zoysa and lost his middle stump.

Three wickets down for 72, the onus once again fell up captain Carl Hooper and Brian Lara. They battled hard in the opening stages, as both Zoysa and Muralitharan bowled good spells, but runs started to flow freely when left-arm spinner Niroshan Banadaratillake was brought on to bowl.

Muralitharan was reintroduced from the opposite end and he finally won a battle of pad play with Hooper, who was caught stranded on his crease and adjudged lbw by umpire Gamini Silva.

Marlon Samuels has looked totally at sea against Muralitharan and he quickly edged a catch behind for a duck.

In a long evening session Sri Lanka's openers started the second innings cautiously, mindful of collapses in previous situations in Kandy.

Jayasuriya went onto score 53, his first half-century of the tour, before he drove straight into the covers. Marvan Atapattu batted out the day and was 58 at the close.

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