First Test

Sri Lanka v West Indies, 2005

Tony Cozier


At Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo, July 13, 14, 15, 16, 2005. Sri Lanka won by six wickets. Toss: West Indies. Test debuts: W. M. G. Ramyakumara (also known as G. Wijekoon); X. M. Marshall, R. S. Morton, D. Ramdin.

Despite their inexperience, West Indies repeatedly gained favourable positions against battle-hardened opponents. Each time, though, maturity counted, and Sri Lanka eventually won by a comfortable margin an hour after tea on the fourth day.

In humid, heavily overcast weather that persisted throughout the first three days, and on a pitch that always offered something to the bowlers, scoring was never easy. Vaas and Muralitharan were once again the key men for Sri Lanka, while the West Indian fast bowlers, led by Lawson and supported by flawless close fielding, especially from the new wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin, exposed weaknesses in the home batting. West Indies recovered from the loss of three wickets for 18 either side of lunch on the opening day to end it satisfactorily at 271 for six. Chanderpaul led the recovery, in successive partnerships of 79 with the enterprising Ramdin and 81 with Banks. He was out next morning without adding to his 69, as the last four wickets were swept aside by the new ball. By the middle of the second session, Sri Lanka were 113 for seven, but Vaas dug in, holding firm for 140 minutes while Muralitharan's typical mixture of hit-and-miss slogging at the other end threw the West Indians into a state of confusion.

The big two were soon back to persecute West Indies with the ball: Vaas claimed two and Murali the other as three wickets tumbled for 17 in near-darkness at the end of the second day. Two more for Vaas after rain delayed the start beyond lunch the next day left West Indies tottering at 21 for five, before Chanderpaul painstakingly repaired the damage between stoppages. He had 29 when the light became dim enough for the umpires to call a halt at 59 for six, then added 19, all in singles, next morning. It was left to Best, who coped with Murali's mysteries better than most of his colleagues, to take the total past 100. He scored 27, an effort spoiled by an uncultured swipe that gave Muralitharan the fifth of his six wickets.

Sri Lanka had only once scored as many as 172 to win a home Test, and when Jayasuriya and Sangakkara fell to spectacular catches at point and second slip off successive balls, and Ramdin skipped down the leg side to complete a tumbling catch from Atapattu, they were faltering at 49 for three, all to Lawson. But as he tired, Jayawardene and Samaraweera gradually took charge, and all but settled the issue with a stand of 86. Lawson returned to remove Samaraweera, but Dilshan quickly ensured there would be no unexpected twists, taking three boundaries in a Best over to round things off.

Man of the Match: W. P. U. J. C. Vaas.

© John Wisden & Co.