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West Indies vs Sri Lanka: Past battles


West_Indies_Sri_Lanka_Test_CricketSince their first meeting nearly 25 years ago, Sri Lanka and the West Indies have played each other in only 17 Test matches, with the subcontinental side holding an 8-3 advantage. As the latest installment of this intermittent fixture – the first such series to be played in the Caribbean in a decade – gets underway at the famed Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain, Trinidad, here is a look back at the past battles from the brief Test history between the two islander outfits.

The first encounter (1993-94)

It was at the Tyronne Fernando Stadium in Moratuwa that the two teams first faced off in whites. A potentially enticing Test was reduced to a damp squib due to poor weather, resulting in less than 12 hours of play. Fast bowlers Curtly Ambrose (3/14) and Winston Benjamin (4/46) combined to skittle the hosts out for 190, before the off-spin of Muttiah Muralitharan (4/47) kept the West Indies’ lead to 14. Sri Lanka were 43/2 in the second innings when play was called off for good.

Ambrose’s hometown heroics (1996-97)

Sri Lanka’s first series in the West Indies ended in a 1-0 loss due to a match-winning performance from the imposing Ambrose in the first Test, played on his home ground, the Antigua Recreation Ground in St. John’s. Ambrose had Sri Lanka at 23/3 on the first morning, before Sanath Jayasuriya (85) staged a recovery. Nevertheless, the last five wickets fell for 17, condemning the Sri Lankans to 223. Ambrose took 5/37; his fifth wicket was his 300th in Tests.

Muttiah Muralitharan (5/34) showed that the visitors were no pushovers, as he helped his team to a first-innings lead of 34. The batsmen frittered away the advantage though, leaving the West Indies with a modest target of 189, which was achieved with six wickets to spare. Ambrose was named man of the match for his return of 8/78. The second Test at Arnos Vale in Kingstown was a riveting draw, with Sri Lanka positioned at 233/8 in a chase of 269 when rain had the final say.

Clash of the gladiators (2001-02)

Five seasons later, Muralitharan had grown to become the most potent spinner in the game, more so in home conditions. In what was otherwise a one-sided series – Sri Lanka cruised to a 3-0 win – Muralitharan’s engaging duel with the brilliant Brian Lara, who almost singlehandedly carried his team’s batting, made for memorable viewing. The Prince of Trinidad set the tone with a masterly 178 out of 448 in the first Test at Galle, expertly keeping Muralitharan (6/126) at bay.

In reply, Sri Lanka posted 590/9, powered by Kumar Sangakkara (140) and Hashan Tillakaratne (105*). Muralitharan added another 5/44 in the second innings as the West Indies succumbed for 144, and consequently, to a ten-wicket drubbing. The series was sealed with a 131-run victory in the second Test at Kandy, thanks to more wizardry from Muralitharan, who snared 4/54 and 6/81 this time. The West Indies could only manage 191 and 190 against Sri Lanka’s 288 and 224/6.

Lara reserved his best for the last Test at Colombo’s Sinhalese Sports Club, but could not prevent another ten-wicket defeat. He toyed with Murali en route to 221 out of 390 in the first innings, followed by 130 out of 262 in the second, but left-arm pacer Chaminda Vaas stole the show, taking 7/120 and 7/71. In between, Tillakaratne creamed 204* to carry Sri Lanka to 627/9. Lara ended with 688 runs at 114.66, the most scored by a visiting batsman in a three-Test series.

Edwards arrives in style (2003)

Fidel Edwards, aged 21, took 5/36 in his first Test innings to help set up a 1-0 series win for the West Indies. After a rain-affected draw at Gros Islet (Lara scoring 209), Edwards’ burst limited Sri Lanka to 208 in the decider at Kingston. Though the hosts ceded a 17-run lead, Edwards’ fellow Barbadian pacer Corey Collymore captured 7/57 to derail the second innings. Set 212 to win, the West Indies rode on the backs of Ramnaresh Sarwan’s 82 and Lara’s 80* to seal a seven-wicket win.

Depleted Windies impress in defeat (2005)

A dispute over sponsorship with the West Indian board meant that a depleted squad was left to deal with Sri Lanka. Though they lost both Tests, the tourists, led by Shivnarine Chanderpaul, had their moments. In the first Test at Colombo, they scored 285 and took a lead of 58, before collapsing for 113 in the second innings in the face of Muralitharan (6/36), paving the way for a six-wicket defeat. Jamaican fast bowler Jermaine Lawson had match figures of 8/102.

In the second test at Kandy, Daren Powell, another Jamaican paceman, grabbed 5/25 as Sri Lanka were rolled over for 150. The West Indies themselves folded for 148, with Vaas taking 6/22, thereby losing their grip on the match. Sangakkara’s anchoring 157* enabled Sri Lanka to declare their second innings at 375/7 and set the West Indies an improbable 378 to win. Muralitharan did the rest, spinning his web to take 8/46 and ensure a 240-run win for his team.

Sri Lanka’s first win in the Caribbean (2007-08)

Sri Lanka’s wait for their maiden Test win in the West Indies ended with a 121-run triumph in Providence, Guyana. Malinda Warnapura (120) and captain Mahela Jayawardene (136) took Sri Lanka to 476/8 and eventually, a lead of 196. Vaas did the star turn with 5/61 as the West Indies fell short in a daunting chase of 437. The hosts came back to square the series at Port of Spain, chasing 253 to win by seven wickets, thanks to Ramnaresh Sarwan (102) and Chanderpaul (86*).

Gayle storm blows through in stalemate (2010-11)

Chris Gayle struck 333 in 437 balls, with 34 fours and nine sixes, in the first Test at Galle as the West Indies piled up 580/9. Thus, he became the fourth batsman to hit two triple tons in Tests, after Don Bradman, Brian Lara and Virender Sehwag. Sri Lanka, aided by rain, followed on 202 behind, before holding on for the draw. Rain played spoilsport in the next two Tests, at Colombo and Pallekele, as well, which led to the loss of prolonged passages of play and a 0-0 series result.

Herath rules the roost (2015-16)

This was the first series played for the Sobers-Tissera Trophy, with left-arm spinner Rangana Herath scalping 15 wickets at 16.13. The first Test at Galle saw Herath take 6/68 and 4/79 as the West Indies (251 and 227) were trounced after Dimuth Karunaratne (186) and Dinesh Chandimal (151) steered Sri Lanka to 484. A low-scoring second Test at Colombo was won by the hosts by 72 runs, though Kraigg Brathwaite’s part-time off-spin fetched him 6/29 in Sri Lanka’s second innings.


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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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