Cricket: Lara responds to elevation in batting order

The West Indies had erased their first-innings deficit and were 49 in the lead with eight wickets standing and heavily dependent on Brian Lara when torrential rain during the lunch break halted play on the third day of the second and final Test against Sri Lanka yesterday.

The likelihood of an early resumption was minimal as pools of water quickly formed on the outfield of the Arnos Vale ground, hosting its first Test.

Behind by 75 on the first innings the West Indies resumed at 19 without loss and the openers Sherwin Campbell and Stuart Williams carried their partnership to 62 with a succession of boundaries before Campbell got a thin inside edge to a loose back-foot stroke off fast bowler Ravindra Pushpakumara and lost his middle stump for 43.

At this point Lara emerged at the No 3 position that had been his by right until his slump in the recent series in Australia resorted in his demotion to No 4. Shivnarine Chanderpaul had taken his place with the kind of consistency that had eluded Lara but a neck injury has eliminated him from this brief series. Another left-hander Floyd Reifer, a tall, upright 24-year-old Barbadian was chosen in his stead and, although unaccustomed to the crucial job of going one down, was given it just the same. He has understandably been uncertain and Lara's elevation was justified and necessary.

A measure of Lara's recent decline is the fact that seven of his previous 20 innings in Tests against Australia, India and now Sri Lanka have ended in single figures and he began somewhat with uncertainty now. He lost Williams 40 minutes before lunch to a catch at silly point from off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan so low to the ground that the standing umpire Doug Cowie, of New Zealand, had to ascertain that it was clean from his square leg colleague, Steve Bucknor.

Williams had survived a return chance to left-arm fast bowler Sajeewa de Silva when 36, an error that was doubly bothersome to the bowler off whom he had taken six of his seven boundaries. Lara began to find the middle of the bat and Reifer remained in until lunch and until the heavens opened up.

Sri Lanka won toss

WEST INDIES - First Innings 147 (C L Hooper 81; K R Pushpakumara 5-41).

SRI LANKA - First Innings 222 (S T Jayasuriya 90; C L Hooper 5-26).

WEST INDIES - Second Innings

(Overnight: 19 for 0)

S L Campbell b Pushpakumara 33

S C Williams c Jayasuriya b Muralitharan 46

B C Lara not out 27

F L Reifer not out 14

Extras (lb2, nb2) 4

Total (for 2, 31 overs) 124

To bat: C L Hooper, R I Holder, I A Bishop, C O Browne, C E L Ambrose, F A Rose, *C A Walsh.

Bowling: S C de Silva 6-0-31-0; Pushpakumara 9-2-42-1; Muralitharan 11- 2-34-1 (nb1); Dharmasena 5-1-15-0 (nb1).

Umpires: S A Bucknor (West Indies) and D B Cowie (New Zealand).