West Indies lost two early wickets but are sitting comfortably in control of the match with a 269-run lead
Tea West Indies 173 for 3 (Brathwaite 60*, Mayers 55, Lakmal 1-13) and 354 (Brathwaite 126, Cornwall 73, Lakmal 4-94) lead Sri Lanka 258 (Thirimanne 55, Nissanka 51, Roach 3-58) by 269 runs
West Indies raised the tempo on the fourth afternoon, going at a rate of 3.71 across the 28 overs bowled since lunch, to stretch their lead to 269. What’s more, while Kraigg Brathwaite backed up his century in the first innings with 60 not out, West Indies lost only the wicket of Kyle Mayers for 55 off 76 balls in this session, and still have seven wickets in hand. Given this, they have the option of batting even more aggressively in the evening, and a declaration does not seem out of the question before the end of play.
There was a little misfortune in Sri Lanka’s situation, however. They did not have their main spinner Lasith Embuldeniya on the field, after he appeared to seriously injure a groin muscle making a sliding stop during the sixth over of West Indies’ innings. He writhed in agony on the ground for several minutes, before he was wheeled off the field on a stretcher and taken to a local hospital for an MRI scan. There has been no official word yet, but it does not appear as if he will play any further part in this match.
In any case, it was the Brathwaite-Mayers stand, worth 82, that propelled West Indies’ forward in their second innings. Mayers was quiet to start, but was typically aggressive once he got his bearings. He hit eight fours in his innings, including six through the legside as he rocked back to drag balls across the line, particularly through midwicket, on a sluggish surface. He survived a close lbw appeal against the bowling of Dhananjaya de Silva – DRS showed the ball to be clipping the bails, umpire’s call – but was otherwise largely untroubled until his eventual dismissal when he was given lbw to Suranga Lakmal. Again, the ball was clipping the bails, but this umpire’s call went in favour of the bowling team.
Through all of this, Brathwaite marched slowly, and mostly steadily. Although his defence has been outstanding all through this match, he also survived a dropped catch. On 34, he clipped Dushmantha Chameera to short leg only for Oshada Fernando to fumble a sharp overhead chance. Otherwise, Brathwaite was content leaving a lot, blocking even more, and picking up runs into the outfield mostly in front of the wicket, such is the nature of the pitch. One-hundred-and-fifty balls in, he has hit only one boundary – a four through cover off a short de Silva delivery in the first session.
In the morning, Lakmal had John Campbell nicking behind for 10. But Brathwaite then put on a 44-run stand with Jermaine Blackwood, who had been promoted to No. 3 in place of the injured Nkrumah Bonner. Blackwood was out edging a Chameera bouncer, having already been dropped by Lahiru Thirimanne at first slip earlier in the innings.
Right at the start of the day, it had taken less than five overs for West Indies to take the two remaining Sri Lanka wickets. Pathum Nissanka did complete a fifty, however, to follow his debut century from the last game.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf