Under-pressure West Indies produced a dogged effort to avoid the follow-on yesterday but rain wrecked the last two sessions to set up an intriguing last two days of the opening Test against Sri Lanka.
Resuming the third day precariously perched on 113 for six, West Indies battled to 224 for nine, thanks to left-hander Kyle Mayers who top-scored with 45, all-rounder Rahkeem Cornwall, who struck 39, and former captain Jason Holder, who chipped in with 36.
Once Cornwall perished off the final delivery of the fifth over after lunch, the heavens opened and forced players from the field, decimating the remainder of the session. The weather relented long enough for officials to flirt with a restart half-hour after the scheduled tea interval but the rains returned shortly thereafter to also rule out any possibility of action in the final session.
West Indies enter the penultimate day of the contest at Galle International Stadium still 162 runs adrift but breathing somewhat easier after safely navigating the hurdle of the follow-on. However, more rain has been forecast for the remaining days, raising the possibility of a draw and a dealing a blow to Sri Lanka’s hopes of winning a game they have controlled from the outset.
Any lofty ideas the home side harboured of quickly running through the West Indies lower order were foiled as Mayers and Holder counter attacked in a critical seventh wicket stand worth 63. Mayers, resuming on 22, faced 62 balls and struck eight fours overall while Holder, on one at the start, lashed three fours and two sixes in a breezy, 60-ball knock.
They cashed in on loose Sri Lankan bowling as off-spinner Ramesh Mendis (3-75) and left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya both proved ineffective, leaving Sri Lanka without the desired early breakthrough. Dhananjaya de Silva replaced Mendis and the move paid dividends when he struck in his third over of the morning.
Mayers attempted to drive one from the off-spinner that stopped on him and he succeeded only in lobbing a catch to cover where captain Dimuth Karunaratne took a stunning catch diving to his right, three overs before the first drinks break.
Holder disappointingly followed in the first over following the resumption, failing to keep down a cut and scooping a short one from left-arm spinner Praveen Jayawickrama (3-38) to Dushmantha Chameera diving to his right at point.
Stumbling on 175 for eight and still requiring a further 11 runs to avoid the follow on, West Indies found a hero in Cornwall who, in his typically forthright manner, punched five fours and a six in his 58-ball knock to inspire a 49-run, ninth wicket partnership with wicketkeeper Joshua Da Silva (11 not out).
It was Cornwall’s pulled boundary behind square off a long hop from Jayawickrama which took West Indies past the follow-on of 186 and with that hurdle out of the way, he took the attack to Sri Lanka’s bowlers.
In the very next over from the struggling Mendis, the burly right-hander cleared the ropes at mid-wicket with the first delivery to raise the 200-run mark, drove the next ball to the long off boundary before under-edging a pull to fine leg for another four, as the over leaked 15 runs.
Unbeaten on 33 at lunch with West Indies on 215 for eight, Cornwall eventually fell to what proved to be the last ball of the day, top-edging a pull at the final ball of pacer Suranga Lakmal’s first over, to hold out to square leg.