Half-centuries from Darren Bravo and Devon Smith took West Indies to 134 for 2 on a rain-affected first day of the first-ever Test at the Pallekele Stadium. Play began in dramatic fashion when Suranga Lakmal removed Chris Gayle with the day’s first delivery but only 40 overs were possible in the day. A wet outfield delayed the start of the match, and a heavy burst of rain just after lunch and bad light in the evening contributed to the shortened day.
Darren Bravo continued to impress on his maiden tour, stroking three boundaries to get his innings started. A glide through cover off Angelo Mathews was followed by a controlled edge behind point, before a wristy flick from middle stump in the next over signaled the confidence Darren had gained from his impressive half-centuries in each of the previous matches.
The runs flowed either side of the wicket for Darren, with an elegant drive after lunch standing out, as he stood tall to crack the over-pitched delivery through extra cover. He continued assuredly alongside Smith, negotiating the Sri Lanka attack with little fuss for the majority of the day and brought up his third fifty in as many matches with a pair of delicate boundaries off Dilhara Fernando; the first, a late dab through the slips, followed by a leg glance to the fine leg boundary.
Devon Smith made use of some wayward bowling to race to his own half-century after tea, in his first Test innings in almost eighteen months, before he was dismissed by Ajantha Mendis on 55. Smith had played Mendis with assurance until his dismissal, working him comfortably for singles despite the turn on offer and twice dispatching him to the fence when he pitched too full.
He punished the quick bowlers as well, glancing Suranga Lakmal for four when he erred down the leg side and crashing a misdirected bouncer from Dilhara Fernando to the wide long-on boundary. The leg-break that has proved so productive for Mendis throughout this tour proved to be Smith’s undoing however, as he misread the straightening delivery after Mendis had bowled a succession of offspinners at the batsman.
Fernando was wayward through the day as he struggled to find a consistent length, but created opportunities nevertheless, particularly in the evening. His awayswingers shaved Smith’s outside edge on occasions, and even prompted an unsuccessful review from the Sri Lankans, just minutes before the batsman finally fell to Mendis. Bravo then edged Fernando to second slip in his next over, only for Mahela Jayawardene to spill the straightforward chance, reprieving the batsman on 55.
Although the swing and seam movement that Kumar Sangakkara expected when he chose to field was less pronounced than he would have liked, there was considerable turn for Mendis and Tillakaratne Dilshan. Rangana Herath was not bowled, but the spinners are likely to play a major role as the Test wears on.
Scores: West Indies 134 for 2 (Darren Bravo 63*, Smith 55) v Sri Lanka.
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