Shannon Gabriel’s raw pace once again unsettled Sri Lanka’s top order as they reached 79 for three at lunch 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.
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 of the morning.
Trailing in the three-match series after losing the first Test in Trinidad by 226 runs, the Sri Lankans will be looking to first Test century-maker Kusal Mendis and captain Dinesh Chandimal to lead them out of trouble in the afternoon session.
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 West Indies captain Jason Holder to take a superb 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, sustained a potentially serious elbow injury when he was struck on the arm by the fearsome Gabriel with the ball ricocheting onto the stumps.
Mendis, whose second innings 102 at the Queen’s Park Oval retained a modicum of pride for the Sri Lankan batsmen in the first Test, 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.