Kasun Rajitha struck two early blows as Sri Lanka pressed for a series-levelling victory on the final day of the second Test against the West Indies at the Darren Sammy Stadium in St Lucia on Monday.
On a day when their captain, Dinesh Chandimal, who has been charged by umpires Aleem Dar and Ian Gould with ball tampering on the second day of the match, is likely to know his fate, the tourists stayed focused on events on the field to reduce the hosts to 55 for three in their second innings at lunch after they were set a victory target of 296.
Shannon Gabriel took the last two wickets of the Sri Lankan second innings within minutes of the start of play to finish with the outstanding innings analysis of eight for 62 and match figures of 13 for 121, the third-best by a West Indian in Tests and the best-ever by a Caribbean bowler in home conditions.
When he wrapped up the Sri Lankan innings for 342 by bowling Akila Dananjaya, Gabriel also reached the landmark of 100 Test wickets.
Rajitha, the debutant fast-medium bowler who claimed three wickets in the first innings, rocked the West Indies with the wickets of Devon Smith and Kieran Powell within the space of three deliveries.
Smith chased a wide ball to be caught at by Dhananjaya de Silva at second slip while Powell turned the second delivery he faced unerringly into the hands of Mahela Udawatte at forward square-leg.
While Kraigg Brathwaite (32 not out) stood firm, Sri Lanka's bowlers continued to create problems at the other end.
Lahiru Kumara, who has proved a handful for the West Indies batsmen with his pace and relentless hostility, forced Shai Hope to retire hurt on six with a painful blow on the hip. Information from the dressing room suggests that he will be able to bat if necessary.
His replacement at the crease, Roston Chase, looked set to accompany Brathwaite off the field at the lunch interval but was bowled by the persevering Suranga Lakmal for 13 in the last over before the break.
Shane Dowrich, who has enjoyed an excellent series so far with the bat, will partner Brathwaite at the start of the afternoon session as the Sri Lankans try to get the better of their opponents and the unpredictable weather to square the series ahead of the final Test beginning in Barbados on Saturday.
It will an historic occasion as the first day/night Test to be played in the Caribbean and will also be starting on the 90th anniversary of the West Indies' first day of Test cricket against England at Lord's in London on June 23, 1928.
Yet it is quite possible that Chandimal will only be a spectator to all that history if he is found guilty of ball tampering.
While he has challenged the charge, match referee Javagal Srinath will be required to adjudicate in a hearing immediately upon the conclusion of the match to make a final determination on the Sri Lankan's skipper's fate.
Evidence to be presented against Chandimal will include video footage from the television broadcasters which appear to show him taking sweets from his pocket and placing them in his mouth and subsequently applying saliva onto the ball in a manner that the umpires determined to be in violation of the code of conduct regulations in relation to "changing the condition of the ball."
There were concerns that the Test match was in jeopardy on the third morning on Saturday when Chandimal refused to lead his team onto the field for the continuation of the West Indies first innings after he was informed of the charge by the umpires and the application of a five-run penalty.
Play was delayed for two hours as animated discussions took place involving Srinath and Sri Lankan team officials.
It required clearance from Sri Lanka Cricket authorities in Colombo to clear the team to continue the match under protest. SLC also issued a statement saying they were satisfied their players were not involved in any wrongdoing, based on the information provided to them by the officials on location.
Should he be found guilty though, Chandimal faces a one-Test suspension which will rule him out of the last match of the series.
While the International Cricket Council's cricket committee has recommended an increase to the penalty for ball tampering to suspension for four Tests or eight One-Day Internationals, that has yet to be ratified by the ICC.
© 2018 AFP