Mendis, Dickwella help SL turn tide despite Gabriel 6-fer

Despite the numerous interruptions the second Test has witnessed due to rains and other factors, the match has come to a point where all three results are within bounds on the final day. The script for this was set by the fourth wicket century stand between Kusal Mendis and Dinesh Chandimal, followed by the 99-run partnership by Niroshan Dickwella and Roshen Silva, which powered Sri Lanka to 334 for 8 in their second innings, before umpire decided to call off play on the fourth day due to poor light.

It was quite an effort by the visitors, given the situation they had found themselves in 45 minutes into the day’s play. Shannon Gabriel and Kemar Roach had rocked the top order with three early wickets. The destruction began in the first over itself when Gabriel trapped nightwatchman Kasun Rajitha without any runs getting added to the overnight score. Dhananjaya de Silva offered Gabriel possibly his least rewarding wicket when he edged an attempted drive on the up to the slip fielder. Mahela Udawatte added to Sri Lanka’s miseries by mistiming a hit over the infield to Devendra Bishoo at mid off. 14 runs into the day, Sri Lanka found themselves reeling at 48 for 4, with only a one-run lead to boot for when Chandimal was joined by Mendis in the middle.

The duo, together, rescued the Sri Lankan innings in contrasting manners. While Chandimal struggled and scratched his way to a painful 39, Mendis looked far more convincing in his shot making. Both of them were awarded lives as they got out off no balls. First it was Mendis, who was caught down the leg side off Jason Holder and then a snooter by Gabriel had Chandimal lobbing a fend to the slip fielder. But on both occasions, the bowlers were found to have overstepped.

The issue of overstepping isn’t new to the current line-up of Windies pacers, but they had shown a marked improvement in that aspect in the ongoing series. However, on Sunday, they overstepped 10 times – twice costing them wickets.

Taking advantage of that, Chandimal and Mendis stitched a 117-run partnership for the fifth wicket and revived Sri Lanka’s innings In the process, Mendis also brought up his sixth Test fifty. His innings, which began cautiously, went a gear higher after being offered a life. He was especially severe to the spinners – Roston Chase and Devendra Bishoo.

Despite their resurrection act, Windies could have got back into the game with both of them falling on either sides of the Tea break. The visitors were reduced to 199 for 6, and with a lead of only 152 runs at that point, could have folded up giving away a target less than 200. But Dickwella and Silva avoided that situation as well for them.

Dickwella didn’t get much strike in the first half of the partnership but was the accelerator of the two. Silva, who has had an ordinary outing in Windies, scratched his way along. Silva, who was dropped by Shai Hope on 27, chugged along to 48 before being caught behind courtesy a fine one-handed take by Shane Dowrich. The batsman wasted a review but by then, the 99-run stand had helped Sri Lanka to a position of comfort.

Dickwella, on the other hand, provided yet another brutal display of batting enroute his 70-ball 62. He registered the highest score by a Sri Lankan ‘keeper in West Indies before falling softly to Gabriel, offering an easy lobbed chance to the short cover fielder. Akila Dananjaya and Suranga Lakmal hung around in the dying minutes of the day and helped the visitors to a 287-run lead at Stumps. It’s a total good enough for Sri Lanka to defend, but remains to be seen if they are confident to go for the kill with an early declaration on the final day.

Gabriel ended the day with six victims in the innings, and 11 in the match – his career best, but it happened to be a day where Sri Lankan batsmen dominated.

Brief Scores: Sri Lanka 253 & 334/8 (Kusal Mendis 87, Niroshan Dickwella 62; Shannon Gabriel 6-57, Kemar Roach 2-75) lead Windies 300 by 287 runs

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