Nissanka matches Edwards' heroics

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The Independent Online

It used to be Kensington Oval in Barbados, but Sabina Park has become the new bastion of West Indies cricket through the lean times of the past eight years.

They have won their last four Tests on the famous old ground in the heart of Kingston. But, after making the early running on the first day of the second and final Test when they dismissed Sri Lanka for 208, they were pulled back by inspired bowling on the second.

After an unconvincing opening partnership of 54 between the left-handers Chris Gayle and Wavell Hinds, they lost their top six batsmen on either side of lunch.

Among them was captain Brian Lara, lbw on the backfoot to off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan for 10, a rare failure at the hands of opponents against whom he had made two doubles and three single hundreds in seven Tests.

Three-quarters of an hour into the second session, the West Indies were 125 for 6, 83 runs in arrears. Although Muralitharan secured the key wicket, the fast bowlers were responsible for the Sri Lankan fightback on a pitch that became faster and bouncier under the influence of fierce sunshine.

The left-armer Chaminda Vaas and newcomer Thilan Thushara were never competently countered by Gayle and Hinds before the tall right-armer Prabath Nissanka, the third bowler introduced, removed both openers in successive overs.

Gayle was undone by a lifting delivery that deflected from the shoulder of the bat to gully after scoring 31. Then Hinds, a century-maker in the first Test, edged a booming drive to the wicketkeeper Romesh Kaluwitharana.

Lara fell an over before lunch, after which captain Hashan Tillakaratne returned to his fast bowlers. They did not let him down. Vaas bowled Ramnaresh Sarwan round his legs for 31 and Nissanka despatched Omari Banks and Marlon Samuels to low catches by Tillakaratne at first slip as West Indies struggled to keep in touch.

Their stimulus had initially come from their newest fast bowler, Fidel Edwards, a 21-year-old plucked from the obscurity of club cricket in Barbados on the insistence of captain Lara. His 5 for 36 on debut, featuring a spell of 4 for 8 to demolish the tail, was principally responsible for Sri Lanka's modest total.

Edwards had only played a solitary first-class match for Barbados a year and a half ago, but Lara found his skidding pace and swing a handful at practice and immediately pushed for his selection.

The half-brother of the left-armer Pedro Collins, who has played 19 Tests, Edwards was the eighth fast bowler used by West Indies in the six Tests of the season and the only one to make such an impact.

Slim and under six feet, he delivers with a slinging round-arm action that several retired players in the commentary and press boxes identified as a combination of Jeff Thomson and Waqar Younis.

It was a flattering comparison and, although his pace was consistently between 85 and 90mph, he is clearly raw. But he observed the basics of length and line and bothered all the Sri Lankans.