Test Match


At Moratuwa, December 9, 10, 11, 12, 13. Drawn. Toss: Sri Lanka. Test Debut: D. P. Samaraweera.

The first-ever Test between the two countries was wrecked by the weather. Only 11½ hours' play was possible and there would have been less had the teams not agreed to forego the rest day after the scheduled first day was lost. The irony was that not a drop of rain fell during the hours of play and yet a full six hours was possible only on the second day. Not a ball was bowled on days four and five.

However, what little cricket the weather allowed was enthralling and eventful, and the low-scoring match was evenly poised when the last ball was bowled. The tone was set by a bald, turning pitch; West Indies, for the first time in five years, played two front-line spinners, Harper joining Hooper, as in the Sydney Test in 1988-89. Sri Lanka included four spinners and only one specialist seamer - Ranatunga had to share the new ball with Wickremasinghe.

The reading of the pitch proved accurate. The Sri Lankan spinners shared all ten wickets, with off-spinner Muralitharan claiming four. The West Indian pair were less successful, with only a wicket apiece among the three Sri Lanka lost in scoring 66 on the rescheduled opening day. They threatened on the second too, but were contained by the expertise, involving a fair measure of pad-play, of De Silva and Ranatunga. De Silva scored a brave 53, in 143 minutes, despite a badly swollen finger after his right hand was struck by a ball from Walsh that lifted abruptly from a length. So precise was his judgment of which balls to leave outside off stump that it seemed unjust when he played on trying to take his bat away from a short one from Benjamin, whose next delivery made Jayasuriya pay the penalty for aiming across the line. When a superb ball from Walsh cut away to find Ranatunga's edge, Sri Lanka were 130 for six. They recovered thanks to a defiant seventh-wicket stand between Kalpage and wicket-keeper Dassanayake. Once they were parted, Ambrose effortlessly demolished the tail, though earlier he had looked innocuous compared to Benjamin, who bowled tirelessly and extracted pace and bounce from an utterly dead pitch.

West Indies then took a slender 14-run lead, despite losing four for 84, owing everything to a fifth-wicket partnership between Richardson and Hooper. Richardson played circumspectly for 203 minutes, and Hooper, using his feet to combat the turning ball, batted in commanding fashion until he had almost run out of partners; the last six wickets went down for 36 runs. Richardson's dismissal, which started the collapse, was a curious one. Charging down the pitch to Kalpage, he was stumped by some distance, as the TV replay confirmed. Umpire Samarasinghe, at square leg, turned the appeal down, however, only for umpire Francis to rule the dismayed batsman caught behind.

Close of play: First day, Sri Lanka 66-3 (P. A. De Silva 29*, A. Ranatunga 6*); Second day, West Indies 99-4 (R. B. Richardson 26*, C. L. Hooper 9*); Third day, Sri Lanka 43-2 (H. P. Tillekeratne 9*, P. A. De Silva 15*); Fourth day, No play.

© John Wisden & Co