Sri Lanka maintain strong hold on West Indies

Published: Tuesday, March 25, 2008, 1:13 [IST]
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Sri Lanka continued to dominate and had West Indies in a desperate bid to avoid the follow-on before tea in the opening Test on Monday.

At the break, West Indies, replying to Sri Lanka's first innings total of 476 for eight declared, reached 186 for six on the second day at the Guyana National Stadium with Ryan Hinds not out on 32 and Denesh Ramdin not out on 17.

Sri Lanka were indebted to Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas, their two most decorated bowlers, for helping them to make headway after West Indies continued from their lunchtime total of 107 for four.

Muralitharan struck in the first over after the interval, 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, batting with the assistance of a runner because of a hamstring strain, and West Indies captain Ramnaresh Sarwan added 53 for the sixth wicket.

Both Sarwan and Hinds batted with aplomb, stroking the ball with crisp assurance either side of the wicket before Vaas made the breakthrough about half-hour before tea.

Sarwan, a native of Guyana, was eyeing his first Test hundred on home soil, but he drove loosely at his 199th delivery from Vaas and was caught behind for the top score so far of 80.

Vaas has collected two wickets for 32 runs from 17 overs, left-arm fast-medium bowler Thilan Thushara has taken two for 43 from 16 overs, and Muralitharan has two for 76 from 25 overs.

Before lunch, Sri Lanka captured three wickets - including the prized scalp of Shivnarine Chanderpaul - to fortify their hold on the match.

Muralitharan removed Chanderpaul in the last 15 minutes before lunch to deliver a significant blow to the West Indies' batting, after Thushara removed Devon Smith and Marlon Samuels in the first hour of the morning.

Thushara struck in the fourth over of the day, after West Indies continued from their bedtime total of 29 for one, and a flat-footed Smith drove lazily at a delivery outside the off-stump and was caught behind for 14.

Sri Lanka tightened their grip, when Samuels ill-advisedly chased a wide delivery from Thushara and was caught behind for five to leave West Indies 58 for three.

But the Sri Lankans were then put on the defensive, when Chanderpaul joined Sarwan and they proceeded to conduct a repair operation.

Sarwan reached 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.

He and Chanderpaul were progressing steadily to the interval, when Muralitharan struck and removed the latter caught at short mid-off for 23.

Just prior to the interval, Sri Lanka missed a chance to apply further pressure when Mahela Jayawardene failed to grasp a sharp chance at leg gully from Dwayne Bravo - on one - off Muralitharan.

Sri Lanka are aiming to win their first Test match in the Caribbean having lost two and drawn two in their previous four. The visitors are also eyeing a Test series victory for the first time in the Caribbean.

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