Sri Lankan captain Dinesh Chandimal battled to hold his team’s innings together as they reached 157 for five after opting to bat first on the opening day of the second Test against the West Indies at the Darren Sammy Stadium in St Lucia on Thursday.
Chandimal was unbeaten on 53 at the interval in partnership with wicketkeeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella.
As in the first session, fast bowler Shannon Gabriel remained a persistent threat and lifted his haul in the innings to three when he had Roshen Silva offering West Indies captain Jason Holder his third catch of the innings at third slip.
Before Silva’s demise though, Holder had got amongst the wickets by removing Kusal Mendis for 45 via an excellent running catch by wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich from a miscued pull.
Mendis, whose second innings century was the lone bright batting spot for the Sri Lankans from the 226-run defeat in the first Test in Trinidad, put on 67 with Chandimal.
Miguel Cummins, the only seamer yet to take a wicket during the first two sessions, should have accounted for Chandimal when he was on 14 but Devon Smith spilled a regulation catch at first slip.
In the first session, Gabriel claimed the wickets of debutant opener Mahela Udawatte and returning middle-order batsman Dhananjaya De Silva while new ball partner Kemar Roach accounted for Kusal Perera in his second spell.
Playing his first Test 10 years after his one-day international debut, which was also against the West Indies in the Caribbean, Udawatte endured the misfortune of repeating the experience of a decade ago in being dismissed for a duck.
Gabriel took the outside edge of his bat to the second delivery he faced for Holder to take a superb diving catch at third slip.
De Silva, who arrived in the Caribbean only last week due to the death of his father two weeks ago and therefore missed the first Test, suffered an elbow injury when he was struck on the arm by the fearsome Gabriel with the ball ricocheting onto the stumps. Scans revealed bad bruising but no fracture.
Mendis joined Kusal Perera and the pair counter-attacked briefly with Perera striking Holder for three consecutive fours.
Such aggression could not last though and Holder again showed a safe pair of hands in the slip cordon to account for Perera for 32 off the first ball Roach bowled coming back into the attack.
Sri Lanka made four changes to their line-up from the first Test with two of the alterations forced by the return home of former captain Angelo Mathews for personal reasons while fast-medium bowler Lahiru Gamage is also on his way back to Colombo after sustaining a fractured finger batting on the final day of the opening Test.
Off-spinning all-rounder Dilruwan Perera and experienced left-arm spinner Rangana Herath were dropped from the side that suffered a first Test match defeat to the West Indies in ten years.
Sri Lanka’s selectors had indicated before the start of the series though that three senior players ?- Herath, Mathews and seamer Suranga Lakmal -? were unlikely to feature in all three matches
Spinner Akila Dananjaya, who took eight wickets on debut in Bangladesh last February, is also back in the team.