West Indies seek that elusive Test win in Sri Lanka

Saturday, 20 November 2021 00:18 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

First Test commences in Galle tomorrow

The last Test series between Sri Lanka and West Indies in the Caribbean in March ended in a nil-all draw


By Sa’adi Thawfeeq

Five West Indies sides in the past have toured Sri Lanka since 1994 and gone home empty-handed, which leaves Kraigg Brathwaite’s team with the enviable task of achieving their maiden Test win on Sri Lankan soil when the first of two Test matches commences at the Galle International Cricket Stadium tomorrow (Sunday).

The series is played for the Sobers/Tissera trophy which Sri Lanka are the current holders having won it in the inaugural year in 2015 and retained it in 2018 when the series was drawn 1-all.

Past West Indies teams to this country has struggled against spin the 2001 and 2005 sides to Muttiah Muralitharan, and in 2015 to Rangana Herath.

The inaugural Test in 1994 of course was an exception with rain throughout three days of an extended six-day Test forcing a tame draw at Moratuwa.

In 2001 Muralitharan demolished West Indies 3-0 despite the brilliance of Brian Lara who stood tall amongst the wreckage to single-handedly pile up 688 runs (avg. 114.66) with a double century and two centuries in the series.   

In 2005 an inexperienced West Indies were overwhelmed by the left-arm swing bowling of Chaminda Vaas and the spin of Muralitharan losing 2-0.

In 2010 the three-Test series ended nil-all despite Chris Gayle scoring a career best triple hundred (333) at Galle. West Indies didn’t have enough fire power in their bowling to dismiss Sri Lanka twice with bad weather also playing a part to a great extent.

The 2015 series, first played for the Sobers-Tissera trophy saw West Indies run into the left-arm spin of Herath and lose 2-0.

The current West Indies side has seven survivors of the 2015 series - Brathwaite, Jermaine Blackwood, Shannon Gabriel, Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Kemar Roach and Jomel Warrican who are quite familiar to the conditions and pitches they will come across at Galle. They lost the Galle Test on that tour by an innings falling to Herath who ended up taking a match bag of 10 wickets. 

Sri Lanka has three survivors from that Test – Dimuth Karunaratne who will lead Sri Lanka in the upcoming series and Dinesh Chandimal, both of whom scored big hundreds, and Angelo Mathews.

The current West Indies side looks the most balanced of the teams that have visited Sri Lanka, and weather permitting at Galle could give a good account of themselves in the series which is the first for both teams in the second edition of the ICC World Test Championships.

West Indies are sure to take the experience of playing in Bangladesh, another spin predominant country, to this series. They surprised the Tigers by winning both Tests played at Chattogram and at Dhaka in February, pulling off a stunning three-wicket win in an extraordinary 395 run chase and then holding their nerve to squeeze out a 17-run win.

West Indies will start the Sri Lanka series on the back of a one-all draw against Pakistan in the Caribbean in August. Sri Lanka on the other hand are playing a red ball cricket match after May when they beat Bangladesh by 209 runs, and could be woefully short of match practice of the longer format. Head to head Sri Lanka lead West Indies 9-4 of the 22 Tests played so far between the two countries with 9 drawn.

Galle, once regarded as the bastion of Sri Lanka cricket, has lost that status since 2017. Sri Lanka has lost four of the last six Test matches played there, three of them to England who has exploited the Lankan batsmen’s weakness against spin, a fact which would not have gone unnoticed by the West Indies who have brought two of their spinners who won the series for them in Bangladesh – burly off-spinner Rahkeem Cornwall and left-arm spinner Jomel Warrican along with another left-arm spinner Veerasammy Permaul.

The match officials for the two Tests are Ranjan Madugalle (ICC Match Referee), and the umpire’s panel comprising Kumar Dharmasena, Ruchira Palliyaguruge, Raveendra Wimalasiri, Lyndon Hannibal and Prageeth Rambukwella.

The matches will be televised on Siyatha TV, Sri Lanka (Pay): Dialog and IPTV – SLT, India: Sony Six+Sony Liv, Rest of sub-continent minus Pakistan: Ten Cricket+Sony Liv, US: Willow TV (TV and digital), Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa: SuperSport (TV & digital), Middle East: Set Max+Sony Liv, UK: Hum Masala, Bangladesh: T Sports (TV and digital), Caribbean – Columbus communications (Flow television) (TV and digital), Sri Lanka: YouTube Live streaming: SLC YouTube Channel and broadcast on radio SLBC.