De Silva has victory in sights

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Cricket

West Indies 147 and 226-3 Sri Lanka 222 and 179-3

Torrential rain during the lunch interval looked likely to deny Sri Lanka a rare overseas victory against the West Indies on the final day of the second Test here yesterday.

They had pulled to within 90 runs of the winning target of 269 with seven wickets standing and with their two most experienced batsmen, Aravinda De Silva and captain Arjuna Ranatunga, entrenched in an unbroken stand of 61 when the heavens opened.

The ground had already taken more than half an inch of rain over the previous three days and pools of water quickly formed on the outfield. Prospects of further play seemed doubtful.

De Silva had advanced from his overnight 34 to 76 at the interval, sharing an unbroken partnership of 61 with Ranatunga. This was not the flashing impulsive De Silva of the previous afternoon when he stroked seven boundaries in 34 off just 28 deliveries. He was more circumspect, acknowledging his responsibility in leading his team towards victory.

This is Sri Lanka's 74th Test since their elevation to the status in 1982, and they have only ever won three Tests on foreign soil, one in New Zealand and two in Pakistan.

Consistently in recent years the West Indies have had to rely on their fast bowlers to extricate them from difficult situations.This time they found no co-operation from either pitch or opposing batsmen, and very little from fielders who let through two boundaries and a couple of singles during the course of the morning.

They also had to contend with De Silva, surely among the finest of contemporary batsmen. He is now 31, this is his 61st Test and he has finally found the discipline required for consistent high scoring at this level.

Almost everything found the middle of his bat and the closest the West Indies came to dislodging him was when he misjudged the length of an off- spinner from Carl Hooper, missed and was nearly bowled. That apart, he pounced on the loose deliveries with certain cuts and drives and included 11 boundaries in his innings.

He lost his overnight partner, Roshan Mahanama, to a wicket keeper's catch off Ian Bishop 35 minutes into play but Ranatunga, with an even longer Test resume than De Silva, ensured the hosts were subdued after their early wicket.

Ranatunga, 33, and in his 69th Test, played in Sri Lanka's first back in 1982 as an 18 year old. He was at the helm when they won the World Cup in Lahore last year and this would be another substantial feather in his cap.

Final day; 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 343 (B C Lara 115; M Muralitharan 5-113).

SRI LANKA - Second Innings

S T Jayasuriya b Walsh 17

R S Mahanama c Browne b Bishop 29

M S Atapattu b Walsh 10

P A de Silva not out 76

*A Ranatunga not out 34

Extras (lb 1nb12) 13

Total (for 3, 48 overs) 179

Fall: 1-26, 2-55, 3-118.

To bat: R S Kaluwitharna, S Ranatunga, H D P K Dharmasena, K R Pushpakumara, S C de Silva, M Muralitharan.

Bowling: Ambrose 12-0-42-0 (nb6); Walsh 14-0-43-2 (nb4); Rose 5-0-24- 0 (nb2); Bishop 8-1-48-1; Hooper 9-3-21-0.

Umpires: S A Bucknor (WI) and D B Cowie (NZ).

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