Heavy rain delayed the start of play on the fourth day of the first Test between the West Indies and Sri Lanka here yesterday. Thunderstorms had halted play eight overs after lunch on Sunday with the West Indies on 272 for 4, 82 runs in arrears in reply to the tourists' first-innings total of 354.
The West Indies captain, Brian Lara, and Wavell Hinds had seized the initiative early on the third day sharing in a 174-run third-wicket stand that had helped steer the home side to lunch on 253 for 3.
Both batsmen rode their luck but once in their stride were quick to punish the Sri Lankan attack, making a concerted effort to disrupt the line of the off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan. Hinds, out of favour with the selectors until an injury to Shivanarine Chanderpaul resulted in his recall for this match, more than justified his selection. He helped himself to 113 runs, his fourth Test century, before he was run out by Marvan Atapattu following a disagreement with Lara over a single to mid-on.
Tempers had frayed with the controversial dismissal of Ramnaresh Sarwan as Sri Lanka struck back after lunch. Sarwan was given out caught off a rebound off a Muralitharan delivery. However, television replays showed that the umpire Billy Bowden's decision, after consultation with his partner Daryl Harper, was an error.
Sarwan's pull had hit the foot of Kumar Sangakkara at short leg before ricocheting to Attapatu who held the catch at mid-wicket. But the replays showed that the ball had bounced before reaching Sangakkara as he shied away from the attacking stroke. However, Bowden, under International Cricket Council regulations, had no recourse to his colleague monitoring the replays in a booth in the media centre.
Lara was unbeaten on 93 when the torrential rain stopped play with Marlon Samuels on five. Lara hit eight fours off 190 balls in four hours in closing in on his 21st Test century.
Third days; Sri Lanka won toss
SRI LANKA - First Innings 354
WEST INDIES - First Innings
C H Gayle lbw b Muralitharan 27
D Ganga lbw b Vaas 12
W W Hinds run out 113
B C Lara not out 93
R R Sarwan c Atapattu b Muralitharan 7
M N Samuels not out 5
Extras (lb3 nb12) 15
Total (for 4, 74.2 overs) 272
Fall: 1-18 2-66 3-240 4-262.
To bat: ÝR D Jacobs, O A C Banks, M Dillon, C D Collymore, J E Taylor.
Bowling: Vaas 24.2-4-62-1; Nissanka 12-0-69-0; Samaraweera 4-0-31-0; Muralitharan 25-2-92-2; Lokuarachchi 9-3-15-0.
Umpires: B F Bowden and D J Harper.