“All West Indies needed was a stiff display of character. They needed to put in a performance that would automatically draw attention to a side that has been reeling in the oblivion for a long, long time now”.
Shane Dowrich resisted and chugged along. He had seen his team collapse to 145 for 5 and it was here that he was faced with a dilemma. Play along rashly and see his side six down or toil and toil to emerge a saving grace. He started in an iffy manner – attempting a drive that fell in the vacant fourth-slip; having trouble beating the fielder or against the swinging ball, but for the remainder of the 325 deliveries, he did resist.
His second ton and the fifty-plus partnerships with Devendra Bishoo and Kemar Roach were invaluable as West Indies scored 414 for 8, before declaring. With rain allowing only 9.1 overs of play on the first session, the onus was on the West Indians not to allow the visiting pacers to wrap up the innings early. The way was paved by none other than Dowrich, who after reaching his fifty with a boundary in the first over of the morning, played with caution and restraint. He hardly gave in to lapses of concentration, waiting for the shorter balls to attack while Bishoo on the other end managed a few runs off the outside edge, which helped him gain the momentum himself.
The partnership that lasted almost 50 overs, had started on the final session on Day 1 and concluded in the third the following day, to frustrate and annoy the visiting bowlers, who lacked the ideas or the application to pick up a wicket. In an attempt to wear the opponents down, the two batsmen played with a one-dimensional approach – waiting and waiting, and tiring down the Lankans.
It not only blocked out any scope for a wicket but it also ensured that the home side would emerge on the driver’s seat after the day ended. It was not after Bishoo had forged his fifth 50+ partnership in the last 14 innings that he shrugged aside his passive-aggressive approach to go after the short balls that resulted in a few boundaries. Soon after though, he lost his concentration and in an attempt to slash at Suranga Lakmal, he lost his wicket for an applaudable 40 off 160. West Indies – 339 for 7.
Just when Sri Lanka could have heaved a sigh of relief, in emerged Roach, who took 24 balls to get his first runs on the board. However, soon, he too started attacking the spinners, with plenty of singles and twos, while Dowrich on the other end was in a monk-like trance – unfazed and unaffected. He survived almost 40 balls in the 90s before getting his hundred – a feat that was achieved in the final ball before Tea.
The last session was the one where the team upped their ante – aware that the obstacles and the danger had been overhauled. Roach scored five fours and a six after Tea, with his knock of 39 in 95 helping stitch a 75-run partnership for the eighth wicket. West Indies – 414 for 8.
However, what was more pleasing was the way the side – that has been cast aside by the Test fanatics for being a team with no challenging spirit left – garnered their determination once the top three had been dismissed for 80. While Kraigg Brathwaite scored only 3, his opening partner Devon Smith made just 7. Keiran Powell did try to fix the early damages with a 38 but it was West Indies’ middle and lower order that mightily impressed. The fourth wicket between Shai Hope and Roston Chase fetched 54 runs but it was the entry of Jason Holder, the skipper, that changed the tides in favour of the Indies.
He stuck around for 29.5 overs putting on 90 for the sixth wicket with his wicket-keeper. However, his dismissal did leave West Indies in a precarious situation, for 237 runs is hardly considered challenging enough.
All West Indies needed was a stiff display of character. They needed to put in a performance that would automatically draw attention to a side that has been reeling in the oblivion for a long, long time now. The side needed to stage a comeback that may not change their fortunes almost immediately, but in their ability to stand tall and make a mark against the Lankans, they did show their undying love and passion towards the sport, of which they were once the masters.