Honours even after extraordinary first day
The opening day of the crucial second Test at Asgiriya International Stadium in Kandy ended with honours even on Wednesday despite an extraordinary first hour in which the West Indies were handicapped by the loss of half their bowling attack in the space of four balls.
West Indies, asked to field by Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya, started the day well, taking a wicket in the very first over, but then saw their premier fast bowler, Mervyn Dillon, break down with a mystery injury in his third over. Three balls later his replacement, Colin Stuart, was banned from bowling again in the innings after bowling two beamers at Jayasuriya.
West Indies were left facing Sri Lanka with just one fast bowler, Pedro Collins, who had not bowled a ball under match conditions in the tour prior to today, and leg-spinner Dinanath Ramnarine, whose fingers will still have been sore from his heavy workload in Galle.
Nevertheless, Sri Lanka's reckless batsmen conspired to lose four wickets in the morning to hand the tourists the initiative before polished half-centuries from Mahela Jayawardene and Hashan Tillakaratne led an afternoon recovery to leave the home team moderately well placed on 193 for five when rain ended play for the day.
The rain, which wiped out the entire final session, will have been warmly welcomed by the West Indies management, who will be hoping that Dillon recovers sufficiently to take a full part on tomorrows play. He did return to bowl a five over spell in the afternoon, but did so in great pain.
The management remains confused as to the reason why Dillon suddenly experienced shooting pains in his diaphragm after each delivery. He was fine yesterday and during the warm-up this morning. They are to consult specialists as soon as possible.
For Stuart, however, there will be no return until the second innings after Law 42.6 (b), which deals exclusively with the bowling of 'High Full Pitched Balls', was tightened up in September 2000. In the past, bowlers received two warnings before being removed from the attack, but now they get a first and final warning.
There was some confusion. Stuart marched back to his mark expecting to continue the over, complaining of a sweaty bowling palm, whilst the umpires conferred with each other and the match referee, before informing Carl Hooper of the freak situation. There may have a case for discretion being used, but the rules were purposely changed to reduce subjectivity in decision-making on a dangerous issue.
Kandy, of course, is no stranger to the unusual. It was here that Australian captain Steve Waugh broke his nose and fast bowler Jason Gillespie his leg during a horrific on-field collision in 1999.
Then, earlier this year against England, Sri Lankan umpire B.C. Cooray needed police protection after one of the most disgraceful umpiring displays in recent times.
All the while, some Sri Lanka's cricketers and fans now privately worry that a hill country hoodoo conspires against them whenever they play here.
They batted like they were cursed too, having won a good toss. Marvan Atapattu stumbled into a straight delivery from Dillon and was adjudged lbw, to record his 19th duck in 87 Test innings.
Jayasuriya, perhaps unsettled by the unusual sight of five different bowlers in the first seven overs of the innings, clubbed three boundaries before being surprised by some sharp bounce and edging to third slip.
Kumar Sangakkara and Russel Arnold then played dreadful shots, as they tried to force leg-spinner Dinanath Ramnarine against the spin were clean bowled to leave an embarrassed home team on 53 for four.
Jayawardene and Tillakaratne continued their prime form from Galle to save them from total humiliation, adding 116 in just over two hours.
Jaywardene, who came into the match with scores 104, 25, 139, 150, and 99 in his last four Tests, counter attacked in style as he went on to score 88. It was a faultless innings full of well-balance pulls and compact drives.
But after the after the post-lunch drinks break he became becalmed, as Tillakaratne, batting with greater freedom than at anytime since returning to Test cricket in August, dominated the strike. Seemingly anxious to get moving again he was caught and bowled in Ramnarines's first over of a new spell as he tried to work the ball into the leg-side.
Tillakaratne correctly sensed that this was not the time for one of his painful attritional innings and pull-swept high over mid-wicket and then square cut for four to bring up his fifty before finishing the day unbeaten on 60.
Tillakaratne has now batted for 883 minutes without being dismissed following scores of 139* against India, 10* against Bangladesh, and 105* in Galle last week.
The match remains evenly poised with Sri Lanka holding a marginal advantage. During the last three Tests in Kandy the first innings scores have been 253, 297 and 274. With a strong lower order they are well placed to surpass this, especially if Dillon remains in capacitated.
For their part, West Indies take credit from the teams response to such misfortune. Considering their predicament they did very well indeed, especially Ramnarine, who enjoyed some bite off the wicket in the first session and bowled accurately throughout.
Earlier in the day both sides made one change from Galle. The Sri Lankans had recalled left-arm fast bowler Nuwan Zoysa in place of Charitha Buddika Fernando, whilst the West Indies included left-arm fast bowler Pedro Collins.