Providence: Chaminda Vaas played a starring role with the ball, as Sri Lanka created a bit of history, when they completed a 121-run victory over West Indies in the opening Test on Wednesday.
Vaas captured five wickets for 61 runs from 22.2 overs and Muttiah Muralitharan took three for 112 from 45 overs, as West Indies, chasing a highly improbable, if impossible 437 for victory, were dismissed for 315 in their second innings about 15 minutes before the scheduled close.
Fittingly, it was the combination of Vaas and Muralitharan that formalised the result with 5.4 overs remaining.
Vaas delivered a rising ball to West Indies batting bunny Daren Powell which he tried to scoop over mid-off and Muralitharan back-pedalling held a remarkable catch reaching backwards to hand Sri Lanka a 1-0 lead in the two-Test series.
The victory however, did not come easy for Sri Lanka though, as Dwayne Bravo, Ramnaresh Sarwan, and West Indies captain Chris Gayle all collected half-centuries to extend the home team's innings deep into the last day at the Guyana National Stadium.
Sri Lanka's run to victory was made difficult by Bravo with the top score of 83; Sarwan, who hit his second half-century of the match of 72; and Gayle - batting down the order - made an unbeaten 51.
The Sri Lankans reduced West Indies to 278 for eight enter the final hour, after Thilan Thushara had Denesh Ramdin caught at slip for one, and Muralitharan had Sulieman Benn adjudged lbw for seven in the first hour after tea.
But Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene - as usual - put the fate of the visitors in the hands of Vaas and Muralitharan and they responded to the challenge.
Vaas had Jerome Taylor caught at second slip for 12, and thought he had won the game, when Powell turned his back on a short delivery from the same bowler, and it appeared he gloved it to Jayawardene at second slip.
Television replays showed it ricocheted from just above his left glove, but Vaas had the final say to make him a shoe-in for the Man-of-the-Match award with match figures of eight for 100 and an unbeaten 54 in the Sri Lanka first innings total of 476 for eight declared to boot.
But the victory had a tinge of controversy, as Sri Lanka benefitted from two questionable decisions in the final half-hour before tea to enhance their chances of victory.
Muralitharan was the beneficiary, when Ryan Hinds, again batting with the assistance of a runner because of a hamstring strain, was looking to bat through until the break.
The Sri Lanka off-spin legend bowled a delivery wide down the leg-side, and Hinds tried to swing it away behind square, and he was adjudged caught behind by umpire Simon Taufel.
Television replays seemed to suggest that Hinds did not make any contact, and Hinds unfortunately may face ICC Match Referee Chris Broad following the game for standing his ground.
Sri Lanka also appeared to benefit, when umpire Billy Bowden adjudged West Indies vice-captain Ramnaresh Sarwan lbw to Thilan Thushara for a well-played 72.
Television replays again showed that Thushara had run wide on the crease and his delivery appeared to be heading down the leg-side.
But there were no questions, when Chaminda Vaas bowled skillfully enough in the first hour after lunch to scalp Marlon Samuels caught behind for 10, and bowled Shivnarine Chanderpaul for three with a well-pitched delivery that breached the batsman's bat and pad.
The Sri Lankans had toiled for most of the morning before making a breakthrough just before West Indies reached lunch on 170 for two.
The Sri Lankans laboured for close to an hour and three-quarters before Muralitharan held a straightforward return catch to remove Dwayne Bravo for 83.
The visitors' hopes for early wickets were dashed, when Bravo and Sarwan stoutly resisted the Sri Lankan bowlers after West Indies continued from their bedtime total of 96 for one.
Sri Lanka began their attack with the spin bowling pair of Muralitharan and left-armer Rangana Herath, but neither posed a serious threat to Bravo and Sarwan.
This allowed Bravo to reach his 50 in the first half-hour, when he edged Muralitharan past slip fielder, Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene to third man for the seventh of his 10 fours which was adjudicated by the video umpire after Herath made a mad scramble to prevent the ball from reaching the boundary rope.
The Sri Lankans did not offer the West Indies' batsmen free runs though, and Sarwan had to wait until inside the final half-hour before the interval to reach his 50, when he cut Vaas' first delivery of the day through square cover for a single.
But the Sri Lankans finally reaped reward for their perseverance, when Bravo's petulance and Muralitharan's guile prevailed to bring to an end a record second-wicket stand for West Indies of 134 against these opponents.
Sri Lanka, eyeing a Test series victory for the first time in the Caribbean, have lost two and drawn two of their previous four Tests in this part of the World.