Warnapura hundred fortifies Sri Lanka's position

Published: Sunday, March 23, 2008, 1:32 [IST]
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Malinda Warnapura maximised ideal conditions to complete a maiden Test hundred before tea and continue Sri Lanka's confident start to the opening Test against West Indies on Saturday.

Warnapura was undefeated on 114 and Kumar Sangakkara was not out on 23 in a stand of 60 - unbroken - for the second-wicket, as Sri Lanka reached 190 for one in their first innings at the break, after choosing to bat on the opening day on a hard, easy-paced Guyana National Stadium pitch.

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 bounced 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 Test newcomer and left-arm spin bowler Sulieman 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 ground.

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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