With Marvan Atapattu, a specialist in double-centuries, resuming on 108 and a foundation of 250 for 4 set on a lifeless pitch on the opening day of St Lucia's inaugural Test, Sri Lanka would have expected a formidable first-innings total at the start of play yesterday.
Their eventual 354 was challenging enough but it needed their last two partnerships, both involving the left-hander Chaminda Vaas, to get them there.
Vaas, last man out for 37 at the tea interval, added 38 with Muttiah Muralitharan and 28 with Parabath Nissanka to frustrate West Indies for over two and a half hours after Sri Lanka lost four wickets for 58 before lunch.
Vaas and Muralitharan returned to remove the West Indies openers in the final session before the left-handers, Wavell Hinds and captain Brian Lara, launched a bold, deliberate and successful assault on Muralitharan, the double-jointed off-spinner who, as always, presented the main threat.
When fading light brought a premature close with three overs remaining, Hinds was 74, Lara 38 and the West Indies were 161 for 2. Their stand was worth 95 off 100 balls and Muralitharan retired with figures of 52 from nine overs for Chris Gayle's wicket.
Hinds and Lara both chose the sweep as an effective counter against him. Hinds twice hoisted him for sixes with the shot and he and Lara kept the two deep leg-side fielders busy.
Hinds also deposited Thilan Samaraweera, a more orthodox off-spinner, for two straight sixes, throwing the Sri Lankans into rare confusion.
Sri Lanka's problems in the morning were caused by the probing swing bowling of Corey Collymore, playing his second Test four years after his first, who added three wickets to the two he took on the first day.
After Hinds made the telling breakthrough by having Atapattu caught at slip for 118 with his medium-pace outswing, Collymore removed Romesh Kaluwitherana, Kausal Lokaurachchi and Thilan Samaraweera in a spell of 10.5 overs to reclaim ground for West Indies.
Once he was rested, the other West Indian bowlers found it difficult to dislodge Vaas and Muralitharan.
On his debut against Australia in 1999, aged 21, Collymore was a bowler of genuine pace and hostility. But a stress fracture of the back forced him to alter his action and lose pace. In the interim, the West Indies have used 15 fast bowlers while he was confined to 42 one-day internationals. His was an emphatic statement to the selectors.Reuse content