Sunday, March 23, 2008

Windies fightback after Warnapura’s Maiden hundred for SL

Three wickets in the final period, including the scalp of Malinda Warnapura for a maiden Test hundred of 120, wobbled Sri Lanka after their batsmen revelled in the opening Test against West Indies on Saturday.

Left-hander Warnapura, opening the batting, maximised ideal conditions to give Sri Lanka a solid base, but West Indies struck back in the final period to leave the visitors on 269 for four in their first innings when stumps were drawn on the opening day.

Warnapura was caught down the leg-side, when he fenced at his short, rising 226th delivery from Dwayne Bravo about half-hour after tea to leave Sri Lanka on 205 for two. He batted for close to 4-1/2 hours and struck 14 boundaries.

But Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene came to the wicket and kept his side on track with his deputy Kumar Sangakkara before Jerome Taylor struck twice in the space of three balls in his 16th over to drag West Indies back into the match.

Sangakkara, who was dropped on 44 at short mid-off off Taylor, flicked Test newcomer and left-arm spin bowler Sulieman Benn through backward square leg for a single to reach 50.

But he edged a loose drive in the next over from Taylor and was caught at slip without addition to his score.

Thilan Samaraweera managed to avoid a first-ball duck, when he kept a low delivery from hitting the base of his stumps, but he had no control, when he turned the next ball from Taylor to the short mid-wicket and was caught to leave Sri Lanka on 243 for four.

Nerves then became to creep into the batting of the Sri Lankans, and Tillakeratne Dilshan -in particular - was fortunate, when he pulled a delivery from Taylor - in his 17th over - to mid-wicket and a sprawling Benn failed to get his hands to the ball.

In the same over, Dilshan almost played a delivery into his stumps, but he and Jayawardene soon regained their composure and saw Sri Lanka through to the close without further damage.

Taylor was the most successful West Indies bowler with three wickets for 59 runs from 18 overs.

Earlier, Warnapura reached his milestone, when he cut his 182nd ball from West Indies captain Chris Gayle for a single to backward point.

But he was fortunate on 95, when Dwayne Bravo dropped him at slip, after he top-edged a cut at a delivery from Gayle that turned and bounce sharply.

The 28-year-old Warnapura entered the Test in a rich vein of form, after retiring-out in both innings of Sri Lanka's only warm-up prior to the Test against a West Indies Select XI for scores of 132 and 50.

Following the retirement of Sanath Jayasuriya and Marvan Atapattu, a void has been left at the top of the Sri Lanka batting line-up, and Warnapura gave evidence that he could adequately fill the role of opening the innings.

He shared a record-breaking opening stand of 130 with Michael Vandort, whose knock of 52 ended when he was adjudged lbw to Jerome Taylor in the first hour after lunch.

Vandort struck seven boundaries from 117 balls in 2-3/4 hours before he played back and across to a full length delivery from Taylor.

His stand with Warnapura eclipsed the 126 - unbroken - shared between Atapattu and Jayasuriya four years ago at the Beausejour Stadium in the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.

Sangakkara came to the crease, and the runs continued to flow for the Sri Lankans, as he looked to lay the groundwork for a significant innings and Warnapura continued to dig-in.

Before lunch, Warnapura drove Benn through cover off the back-foot for two to reach his 50 and helped catapult Sri Lanka to 85 without loss at the interval.

The closest Warnapura and Vandort came to gifting West Indies a wicket was when Benn had a narrow run-out chance in the first hour.

Warnapura played a delivery from Taylor defensively into the off-side, and Benn scooted in from gully to send an under-armed return to the striker's end with Vandort scampering to make his

But the two Sri Lanka batsmen quickly put this behind them and plundered the West Indies' bowling, forcing Gayle to play musical chairs with his attack.

Sri Lanka omitted Chamara Silva, Ishara Amerasinghe, Chanaka Welegedara, Nuwan Kulasekera from their touring squad, and West Indies sidelined Fidel Edwards, uncapped spin bowler Amit Jaggernauth with uncapped hometown boy Sewnarine Chattergoon not
considered because he was ill.

The hosts handed a Test debut to Benn, and he became the 268th player to wear the Maroon Cap.

The second Test between the two sides will be contested from April 3 to 7 at Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad, and the series is completed with three one-day internationals on April 10 and 12 at Queen's Park Oval, and a day/night affair on April 15 at Beausejour.

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