It will be all to play for in the second Test after a resolute performance from the West Indies batting order held off Sri Lanka on day five.
A maiden Test century from Nkrumah Bonner, alongside a fighting 52 from Kyle Mayers, saw the West Indies to safety with six wickets to spare in the first match against Sri Lanka.
Needing 341 to win with nine wickets in hand, the West Indies always had their work cut out for them going into day five.
After a slightly delayed start to play because of a wet outfield, Kraigg Brathwaite and Bonner began on a positive note. The Sri Lanka pacers barely troubled the duo as they powered on. Without taking any risks, the batsmen continued to milk singles and saw off a tricky first hour with a minimum of fuss.
They brought up the half-century stand with ease and looked good to add more runs to the total. However, the breakthrough finally came in the form of Lasith Embuldeniya (2/62), who broke the 60-run stand when he dismissed Brathwaite for 23, ending a 124-ball vigil. The West Indies captain misjudged the line, stepping out of the crease and exposing his stumps to have them rattled shortly before the lunch break. He was left to applaud Bonner’s half-century from the dressing room.
It was the last wicket Sri Lanka would celebrate for a while as Bonner and Mayers set in for the long haul.
There were two reviews in the afternoon session and both went against Sri Lanka as the West Indies put on 90 runs for no loss. In the second over of the session, Dushmantha Chameera (0/44) struck Mayers on the pads, spurring a hearty appeal and then a review from Sri Lanka. Ball tracking confirmed it had pitched just outside leg and Mayers survived on seven.
Shortly after, Bonner, on 52, was given out caught behind against Embuldeniya and reviewed immediately. It was a wise decision, as UltraEdge confirmed the ball had narrowly missed the edge. Rubbing salt in the wounds for Embuldeniya, he drew an edge from Mayers in his next over only for it to go high and wide of the slip. Soon after, Vishwa Fernando (2/73) lured an edge from Bonner and it again evaded the field, going wide of first slip for four.
Having enjoyed their luck, Bonner and Mayers went about putting the pressure back on Embuldeniya. Bonner swept the spinner for one six before Mayers picked up boundaries to fine leg and cover. The scoreboard pressure started to tell and in the final over of his spell, the Sri Lankan dropped short twice and was punished both times by Bonner.
By tea Mayers had raised his half-century and Bonner had his eyes firmly set on a maiden Test century, with the West Indies 181/2.
At that stage the likeliest result looked to be a draw but throughout this Test the final session has often seen wickets tumble. That seemed likely to be the case again as Mayers fell after the break, edging behind to Embuledniya for 52.
Shortly after Jermaine Blackwood perished for four, bowled through the gate by Fernando and a tight finish was on the cards. It could have been worse for the hosts too, as just a little earlier Sri Lanka had called for a review against Bonner off the bowling of Fernando. On 95, the No.3 was struck on the front pad by the fast bowler and barely survived the review, with ball-tracking suggesting it was clipping the top of middle-and-leg but not sufficiently enough to overturn the umpire’s original decision.
It was a nervy wait for Bonner in his quest for his first century. Alongside the dismissal of Blackwood and the Sri Lankan review he had to put the threat of rain out of his mind as groundstaff waited on the boundaries edge to rush the covers on. Thankfully it never got worse than a drizzle and after spending eight balls stuck on 99, he brought up his maiden Test century in his third match with a gorgeous cover drive off Fernando for four.
Having had to wait until his 32nd birthday had passed to receive a maiden Test, he has well and truly made the most of his opportunities since, with a healthy average of 75 right now.
With Bonner’s century in the bag, the tension eased and the boundaries started to flow but victory for the West Indies was off the cards as they went into the final hour at 226/4, still needing 149 runs to win. Sri Lanka endeavoured to take the final six wickets but with 10 overs still available the captains were happy to call it a draw, with Bonner unbeaten on 113 and Jason Holder on 18.
Now, it is all to play for in the final Test, starting 29 March.