The tourists went into day four on 81/5, requiring 63 for victory. Dilruwan Perera and the classy Kusal Mendis were the unbeaten batsmen, and keeping Mendis out in the middle looked to be the most important thing to ensure victory for the Sri Lankans. West Indies started the day well, galvanised by the prospect of a 2-0 series win, and Holder had Mendis trapped lbw with one that kept low in the first over of the day, prompting jubilant celebrations.
Unfortunately for the hosts, opening batsman Kusal Perera, who was forced to leave the pitch on day three due to an injury picked up while fielding, came in at No.8 having recovered sufficiently from his knock. He and Dilruwan Perera proceeded to make an unbeaten stand of 63, bringing home the game for the visitors.
Dominance of the game had fluctuated between the two sides as the four days progressed, and the Windies’ first innings total of 204 turned out to be the highest scoring innings of the game. Sri Lanka’s flourishing and highly menacing pace trident of Lahiru Kumara, Suranga Lakmal and Kasun Rajitha tore through the Windies’ top order, and when Roston Chase was cleaned up by Rajitha in the 14th over, the hosts had fallen to 24/4.
In a stylish, dynamic partnership of 115, Holder and Dowrich resurrected the innings and recorded individual scores of 71 and 74 respectively. Kumara was the standout bowler, notching 4/58, and evidence of the difficult conditions was already plain and clear. The ball was nipping around off the incredibly green pitch, one that Ian Bishop actually described as “the greenest pitch” that he had ever seen in the Caribbean.
Kemar Roach came to the party immediately with the new pink ball, disturbing the Sri Lankans’ reply with the wickets of both openers inside the first seven overs. Gunathilaka and Mendis were looking good for their stand of 59, but once Shannon Gabriel had skittled the former, Sri Lanka collapsed, and the inspired Jason Holder took 4/19 from his 16 overs.
Niroshan Dickwella flashed hard and effectively for his 42, but it was evident that conditions were flattering the bowlers here, rather than the batsmen. Sri Lanka were bowled out for 154 on day three, clocking a 50-run first-innings deficit.
West indies went out to bat with a lead, looking to kick on with hope of batting for the whole day and potentially the fourth day, but their plans were quashed quick-time, stumbling to 14/5 as the Sri Lankan seamers once again got their areas spot on. Kumara’s thunderous, rapid spell wreaked havoc in the Windies ranks, while Lakmal was probing the grassy areas of the wicket on an off-stump line to great effect.
Rajitha, in just his second Test match, bowled with such guile and maturity throughout, and he cleaned up the potent middle order of Holder and Dowrich, as well as Bishoo. The hosts regrouped temporarily through a stoic, gritty partnership of 26 from tail-enders Roach and Cummins, but were ultimately dismissed for 93, leaving Sri Lanka 144 runs to win the Test and tie the series.
Sri Lanka looked to adopt a more positive approach in their bid to knock the runs off, but the Windies bowlers matched their efforts in the final session of day three. Holder picked up four wickets as he continued his special form, while Roach chipped in with the early wicket of Mahela Udawatte. The task on the final day was a simple one, and Sri Lanka ran out winners as expected.
It was a magnificent contest in Barbados, and stand-in captain Lakmal did a great job of rallying his troops in this final, decisive Test. Holder’s five-for was ultimately in vain as the two Pereras batted Sri Lanka through to victory, but this day/night affair was a fascinating spectacle. We saw 20 wickets on day three, and we saw the lowest total recorded by a Windies side against Sri Lanka, 93. It was Sri Lanka’s first-ever win at the Kensington Oval, and what a win it was.