Fast bowler Shannon Gabriel commended the West Indies bowlers for making best use of a pitch that was on the slower side, but had enough bounce to keep the batsmen on their toes. Gabriel led the way, snaring his third five-wicket haul in Test cricket and helping bowl Sri Lanka out for 253 on the opening day of the second Test in St Lucia.
Dinesh Chandimal had chosen to bat first, the Sri Lanka captain judging the surface to be a good one. But Gabriel provided a preview of things to come when, with just his second delivery, he squared up the debutant Mahela Udawatte with a short of length delivery that jagged away, and had him fending to first slip. He finished with 5 for 59, while Kemar Roach took 4 for 49. Gabriel said hitting that ideal length to generate bounce was key to West Indies' success.
"I think I went out there this morning and concentrated on putting the ball in the right areas, because we knew there was a bit [in the pitch] this morning," Gabriel said. "Thankfully, things went my way today. I think it was a little slow, but you're still getting that bounce, so it was important to hit the right areas and the right length. Most of the guys did that today... Roach bowled well this morning, didn't get the success he deserved."
West Indies took three wickets in the morning session - two for Gabriel and one for Roach. Gabriel could have had a third had Shane Dowrich held on to a leaping catch off the last ball before lunch. Kusal Mendis got an edge on an attempted ramp to a short ball, Dowrich jumped but could only tip the ball over his head for four.
Gabriel claimed one more wicket in the post-lunch session by hitting the same back-of-length spot, when he found the shoulder of Roshen Silva's bat and had him edging to third slip. Roach had more success as the day progressed, getting three wickets in the final session. Despite the dominance of the fast bowlers, Gabriel was also impressed with Devendra Bishoo's performance and expected the spinners to play a central role later in the game.
"I just thought Bishoo was good today, more consistent with his line and length, so hopefully as the game goes on he can play a bigger part."
After the bowlers had played their part, West Indies openers Kraigg Brathwaite and Devon Smith saw off the two overs before stumps without any damage. "I think once we get good weather and the sun comes out, it will dry out a bit," Gabriel said. "And once our batsmen apply themselves and bat long, I think we will be capable of putting up a good score in the first innings."