West Indies last won a Test at Queen’s Park Oval in 2008, against a Sri Lankan side that had Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan. Ten years later, they’re at it again, albeit against a Sri Lankan side which doesn’t the same kind of experience.
West Indies are missing some stalwarts too. In 2008, they had Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Marlon Samuels and Dwayne Bravo to bank on. But the latest crop of batsmen were still able to drive home a sizeable advantage on the third day of the first Test. This after the fast bowlers – Miguel Cummins, Jason Holder, Shannon Gabriel and Kemar Roach – picked up eight wickets to skittle Sri Lanka for 185 and open up a 229-run first-innings lead. By stumps, that lead had swollen to 360.
Kieran Powell led the attack in the second innings, reaching his fifth Test fifty with a six over long-off. The 28-year old, who briefly gave up cricket for baseball in 2016, flourished when none of the others from the top five could get past 20. Powell remained unbeaten on 64 off only 80 deliveries as West Indies ended the day on 131 for 4.
“The team was in a good position already since we had a 200-run (229) lead,” he told Cricket West Indies. “We had a relatively good start, but it was my job to try and stamp the authority in the innings to ensure we have a good lead. Most importantly, the plan was to keep Sri Lanka on the field and get them tired.”
That perhaps explains why West Indies didn’t enforce the follow-on despite wrapping up Sri Lanka’s innings halfway through the third day. The surface may have also come into consideration while deciding to bat again. Where it was offering assistance to the seam bowlers on the opening day, there had been considerable wear and tear by stumps on day three.
As uneven bounce creeps into the Test, West Indies have the upper hand. “On the first day, the surface was a bit tacky, it was a bit more moist,” Powell said. “Now, it’s keeping a bit low so you have to play straight and watch the ball very long, obviously a few guys got a few balls that rolled, few bounced so it’s a tricky pitch and it bodes well for us.
“We’re in a good position, 360 ahead, so it’s just a matter of taking time out of the game, once we bat time, we will score runs. The plan is to bat till lunch and take it from there, put ourselves in a position from where we can’t lose the game and getting Sri Lankans to run around in the sun tomorrow.”