First Test Match

West Indies v Sri Lanka

Fazeer Mohammed


At Gros Islet, St Lucia, June 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 2003. Drawn. Toss: Sri Lanka. Test debut: J. E. Taylor.

The wisdom of scheduling international cricket at the start of the Caribbean rainy season was again brought into question by the loss of more than half the third day and all of the fourth to the weather. The rain further dampened the spectators' already lukewarm response to St Lucia's first Test match. The president of the West Indies Cricket Board, Reverend Wes Hall, compared it with trying to play cricket in the English winter.

Despite being located in what is considered the driest part of the island, the new Beausejour Stadium - never more than half full - did not escape the showers for long, and a torrential downpour on the third afternoon left the ground waterlogged. Though the clouds lifted early on the fourth morning, it remained too soft underfoot for any play to be possible, which was a major blow to celebrations scheduled to mark the 75th anniversary of West Indies' first Test. Only a handful of fans watched the modest ceremony, at which relatives of the pioneering 1928 touring team to England were presented with a mounted photograph of the side.

Before the match was condemned to its watery grave, Atapattu batted serenely through the opening day to score the first hundred at the Caribbean's eighth Test venue. On the second morning, his dismissal for 118 by Hinds's part-time seamers triggered a collapse: four wickets fell for 22 runs, the other three to Collymore, who had lost pace but gained an out-swinger since his only previous Test four years earlier. On a placid pitch, Sri Lanka went on to make 354, although the painfully slow progress of their last three would not have impressed any St Lucians watching Test cricket for the first time.

However, the fans' patience was eventually rewarded. In reply, West Indies plundered 161 off 33 overs before the close, as Lara and Hinds belted anything remotely off line. They extended their partnership to 174 on the third morning, until Hinds was left stranded by his captain's error of judgment and run out for 113. Shortly afterwards, the controversial dismissal of Sarwan sparked another furious argument in the interminable technology debate. Had umpire Bowden been allowed to consult the third official, Sarwan's pull - which hit the ground and then the ankle of Sangakkara at short leg before being caught by Atapattu - would have been ruled not out. As it was, Sarwan was sent on his way.

Always mindful of an occasion, Lara hoped he would reach his 21st Test century on the fourth day, which marked 75 years exactly since West Indies' first Test. But the ground failed to dry quickly enough and, though only seven short, he had to wait until the last morning. Having survived a stumping chance off Muralitharan on 94, he duly reached his fifth hundred in as many Tests against Sri Lanka.

In a doomed attempt to put some pressure on the opposition in the last few hours, Lara then stepped up the pace, making a second hundred in two-and-a-half hours and celebrating with a huge six over long-on. However, his dismissal for 209 - after 452 minutes and 360 balls, with 24 fours and a six - stalled the quest for quick runs and delayed the declaration. Muralitharan spun his way to five for 138, his 38th five-wicket innings in 81 Tests. In reply, Atapattu and Jayasuriya comfortably cancelled out West Indies' lead of 123.

© John Wisden & Co