Dilshan and Silva spark recovery
The first day of the second Test at the Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad began and ended in similar fashion, with West Indies bowling a poor line and length and the Sri Lankan batsmen scoring at a fast clip. In between the two wayward periods, Fidel Edwards and Jerome Taylor operated with hostility to take five quick wickets, but a counter-attacking partnership after tea between Tillakaratne Dilshan and Chamara Silva wrested the initiative for Sri Lanka and they ended the day on 217 for 5.
The conditions were ideal for West Indies and Chris Gayle won the toss and gave his all-pace attack, which was bolstered by the inclusion of Edwards, first use of a grassy pitch. However, Daren Powell and Taylor sprayed the ball around and Sri Lanka capitalised by scoring at four runs an over. West Indies were beginning to look ragged and dropped two catches but Edwards struck twice to help them salvage the first session. Taylor landed a couple of significant blows after lunch to reduce Sri Lanka from 62 for 0 to 117 for 5.
Frequent rain breaks had given the West Indian fast men time to rest and return to exploit the pace and bounce on the wicket but they failed to knock Sri Lanka out after rattling the top order. Dilshan led the fightback with an array of aggressive shots and, although he played and missed frequently, he succeeded in pushing West Indies on the defensive with several cuts and pulls that raced to the boundary. Silva played second fiddle and together they added 100 at a run-a-ball to ensure that Sri Lanka had the better of the day on which only 46.3 overs were possible due to the weather.
There were several missed opportunities for West Indies. Sri Lanka's opening partnership was lucky to get off the mark after Powell swung the second ball of the match into Michael Vandort and hit the left-hander plumb in front, but Billy Bowden turned the appeal down. The first three overs were tight before Malinda Warnapura unleashed a series off pulls and cuts against Taylor and Vandort too got into his stride with a flick to the midwicket boundary and an elegant square drive off Powell. Singles were rare but the boundaries flowed - the first five scoring shots were all fours.
West Indies' next chance of a breakthrough came in the sixth over when Sri Lanka were on 21. Warnapura edged Taylor straight to third slip where Dwayne Bravo dropped a straightforward offering. Vandort was also reprieved on 10 by Powell when the bowler failed to latch on to a sharp return catch. West Indies were forced on the defensive as runs flowed: three slips became two and Gayle employed a fielder on the cover-point boundary and brought himself on in the 14th over.
Unlike Powell and Taylor's initial spells, Edwards was rewarded for consistently probing in the channel outside off stump when he found the outside edge from Warnapura's forward push. This time the catch was taken at third slip by Sewnarine Chattergoon, who was making his Test debut on his 27th birthday. In his next over, Kumar Sangakkara nicked one to Denesh Ramdin and Sri Lanka were 72 for 2.
Rain delayed play by 20 minutes after lunch and only 3.3 overs were possible before another interruption. However, during that short span Edwards struck his third blow to dismiss Vandort for 30. He bowled one just outside leg stump and Vandort got an edge through to Ramdin while trying to glance the ball to fine leg.
Another rain delay refreshed Edwards and Taylor and they bowled with pace, keeping the ball outside Thilan Samaraweera's off stump. He never looked at ease and eventually poked at a good length ball from Taylor and nicked it to Gayle at first slip. A score of 112 for 4 soon became 117 for 5 as Taylor produced a peach that pitched on middle and seamed away from Mahela Jayawardene to hit the top of off stump.
Another wicket looked imminent as Dilshan tried to pull anything short and flayed when offered width. Several balls passed by his edge but he and Silva survived until rain interrupted play once again with Sri Lanka on 139 for 5. After the resumption, one would never have guessed that West Indies were the team on top. Dilshan batted in one-day mode and together with Silva dropped the ball expertly into the gaps and scampered singles right after clouting loose deliveries to the boundary.
Bravo, West Indies' fourth bowler, and Taylor were lacklustre in the last hour and it cost West Indies. The hosts had one more opportunity but Devon Smith grassed Silva, on 33, in the slip cordon and by the time Dilshan brought up his fifty with a steer through backward point, the momentum was with Sri Lanka.
George Binoy is a staff writer at Cricinfo