Nissanka’s century on debut puts Sri Lanka in driver’s seat

The West Indies are up against it in the first Test, chasing a huge target after another good day with the bat for Sri Lanka.

Courtesy of a century on debut from Pathum Nissanka (103) and an entertaining 96 from Niroshan Dickwella, Sri Lanka were bowled out for an impressive 476 in their second innings, setting the West Indies a target of 375 to win.

By stumps the West Indies were in trouble but far from out of the contest at 34/1.

The West Indies had begun the day on a positive note when Alzarri Joseph (2/83) knocked over Dhananjaya de Silva’s stumps in the first over of the day for 50 with a ruthless in-swinger soon after the batsman had raised his half-century.

The opening was just what the hosts needed but any hopes for further damage fizzled out as Dickwella went to work with Nissanka.

The experienced batter of the pair took a backseat initially, allowing Nissanka to play freely. As the youngster’s confidence grew, he began playing his shots, pouncing on any poor deliveries. The duo quickly brought up a fifty-run stand by the end of the first hour.

Nissanka also brought up his maiden Test fifty – a tremendous effort, which also took Sri Lanka’s lead past 200.

By lunch, the batsmen had settled well, bringing up a century stand for the sixth-wicket and Sri Lanka were 359/5, with Nissanka’s eyes firmly set on a century.

With Sri Lanka’s lead swelling, the West Indies’ desperation grew and saw them waste their final review on an lbw shout against Nissanka. The third umpire quickly confirmed a thick inside edge onto the pad and the West Indies had no more reviews. That would come back to bite them later in the day.

And their frustrations grew further as Jason Holder (0/40) drew a false shot from Dickwella that flew straight to gully, only for Nkrumah Bonner to put down the simple chance with the Sri Lankan on 45. He soon raised his half-century, and upped the ante from there, slapping back-to-back boundaries off Rahkeem Cornwall (3/137) soon after reaching the milestone.

On 76, Dickwella gave the West Indies another chance, edging Joseph behind down the legside. It only drew a half-hearted appeal from bowler and the umpire was not convinced. UltraEdge confirmed he had indeed nicked it. He would enjoy one more significant slice of luck for the day.

At the other end, Nissanka quietly went about his work. Having hit a four to raise his half-century, his next boundary took him into the 90s. With an edge wide of slip off Jermaine Blackwood (0/3) he raised his maiden Test century; a patient effort that had taken 241 balls and put Sri Lanka firmly in the ascendancy. While the shot to take Nissanka to his hundred was less than convincing, it was an innings of serious gumption that started with Sri Lanka in trouble at 189/4. He fell soon after raising the milestone to Cornwall for 103, caught top-edging a sweep, and walked off the field having announced himself as a player to look out for in the years to come.

Nissanka’s fall did little to quell Dickwella and with a four down the ground off Kemar Roach (3/74) he went past his previous Test best of 92. On 95 he was struck on the helmet by a Roach bouncer and the ball ricocheted onto the stumps but somehow the bails stayed on. At that point it seemed preordained the Sri Lankan was going to score his first ever Test century. On 96 his luck finally ran out, bowled by Roach four runs short of the landmark.

Despite the disappointment of missing out on the century, he had done his job for the side and taken Sri Lanka’s total past 450. With the last recognised batsman out, the West Indies made quick work of the tail with Suranga Lakmal (8) run out before Cornwall accounted for Lasith Embuldeniya (10) and Dushmantha Chameera (6) with back-to-back deliveries.

A great day for Sri Lanka got even better with the ball as Vishwa Fernando (1/21) accounted for John Campbell (11) in the sixth over of the West Indies’ chase, getting a delivery to nip away from outside off to take the opener’s edge.

Kraigg Brathwaite (8) and Bonner (26) saw the West Indies safely to stumps from there and will resume play on day five with all four results still possible.