Providence: Sri Lanka seized control of the opening Test against West Indies on Monday although their hosts need eight more runs to avoid the follow-on.
West Indies, replying to Sri Lanka's first innings total of 476 for eight declared, reached 269 for nine when stumps were drawn on a compelling third day's play.
Sri Lanka's bowlers toiled all day on the easy-paced Guyana National Stadium pitch, but Ramnaresh Sarwan with a top score of 80 and the West Indies lower-order thwarted their plans to enforce the follow-on.
Chaminda Vaas, fellow left-arm fast-medium bowler Thilan Thushara, and off-spin legend Muttiah Muralitharan shared eight wickets between to bolster Sri Lanka's hold on the Test.
Vaas has captured three wickets for 45 runs from 22 overs, Muralitharan three for 104 from 38 overs, and Thushara two for 59 from 20 overs.
But Sri Lanka found it difficult to dislodge the second half of the West Indies batting, after the home team subsided to 109 for five in the first over after lunch.
The Sri Lankans bowled with discipline, but Sarwan, batting with aplomb, added a valuable 53 for the sixth wicket with left-hander Ryan Hinds.
Sri Lanka breathed much easier, when Sarwan, whose 4-1/2 hour stay at the crease resulted in four boundaries from 199 balls, was caught behind off Vaas as West Indies reached 186 for six at tea.
After the break, the energised Sri Lankans sought to finish the demolition job, but Hinds scored 37, Denesh Ramdin made 38, Test newcomer Sulieman Benn got 28, and Jerome Taylor compiled 24 not out before the close to dash their opponents' hopes.
Things had progressed much smoother for Sri Lanka earlier, after West Indies continued from their bedtime total of 29 for one.
Sri Lanka captured three wickets - including the prized scalp of Shivnarine Chanderpaul - before lunch to fortify their hold on the match, and leave West Indies wobbling on 107 for four.
Muralitharan removed Chanderpaul in the last 15 minutes before lunch to deliver a significant blow to the West Indies' effort, after Thushara removed left-handed opener Devon Smith and the silky Marlon Samuels in the first hour of the morning.
Thushara struck in the fourth over of the day, when a flat-footed Smith drove lazily at a delivery outside the off-stump and was caught behind for 14.
Sri Lanka increased the pressure, when Samuels ill-advisedly chased a wide delivery from Thushara and was caught behind for five to leave West Indies 58 for three.
The Sri Lankans were then put on the defensive, when Chanderpaul joined Sarwan and they proceeded to conduct a repair operation.
Sri Lanka saw Sarwan reach his 50, when he turned his 99th ball from Muralitharan between the forward short leg and leg gully fielders to the fine leg region for a deuce.
Sri Lanka were just beginning to get nervous, when Muralitharan had Chanderpaul caught at short mid-off for 23, and they could have applied further pressure just prior to the interval, when their captain Mahela Jayawardene failed to grasp a sharp chance at leg gully from Dwayne Bravo - on one - off Muralitharan.
Sri Lanka continued to make headway after the interval, and had immediate success, when Dwayne Bravo was adjudged lbw for eight playing back and across to a well-pitched off-break.
For the next 1-1/2 hours, Sri Lanka toiled with little reward, as Hinds and Sarwan batted doggedly to defy their opponents, and set an example which the lower order followed.
Sri Lanka are aiming to win their first Test match in the Caribbean having lost two and drawn two in their previous four.