WEST Indies captain Jason Holder told the media, on Tuesday, he is determined to not lose the 1st Test and have to play “catch up cricket” this series. His determination was evident yesterday as the regional batsmen struggled at the Queen’s Park Oval on day one of the opening Test vs Sri Lanka.
Holder showed great leadership qualities, however, to rally his troops when they were in danger of folding cheaply.
The Bajan arrived at the crease with his team in trouble at 147 for five and alongside an ultra defensive Shane Dowrich guided the regional side past 200 to eventually close the day on 246 for six.
Holder and Dowrich put on 90 runs for the sixth wicket with the skipper taking the attack to the visitors and shielding his partner who seemed short of confidence.
Acknowledging the struggles of Dowrich, who at one point was on a painstaking four off 46 balls, Holder kept talking to his partner, touching gloves between deliveries. Assisted by a healthy dose of luck, Holder’s pep talk seemed to work. Dowrich, dropped on 16, finished the day as the top scorer for the Windies – 46 not out off 133 balls – and even outlasted his captain who was dismissed for 40 from 88 deliveries.
Speaking at the close of play Shai Hope was full of praise for the duo for holding off the Sri Lankans.
“I think it was a decent recovery, credit must go to Jason and Dowrich for pulling us out that position. It’s not ideally where we would like to be but still some positives to take from the day,” Hope said.
Hope, who chipped in with 44, said Holder did a good job helping Dowrich and now the onus is on him to help steer the Windies past 300.
“It’s a team sport and everybody helps each other. It’s cricket and not everybody is going to get the best of starts. It’s just nice to see he stuck it out and he’s flowing now quite nicely so hopefully he can carry on tomorrow.”
Earlier, Holder won the toss and decided to bat. All eyes were on 36-year-old opener Devon Smith to see if he would justify his recall to the team. Surprisingly, it was the usually solid Kraigg Brathwaite (3) that lost his wicket first after a thorough examination by pacer Suranga Lakmal in the 3rd over. He had Brathwaite playing and missing before edging to wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella with the Windies just four runs on the board. New batsman Kieran Powell joined Smith who looked like a man who had not played international cricketer for three years – his last match was April 2015. Despite his uncertainty at the crease, his mode of dismissal could have been prevented. Powell, looking to pinch a single off spinner Dilruwan Perera, called Smith for a non-existent run and the Grenadian was found short of his ground to be out for seven from 21 balls.
Hope, one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Year, announced his arrival at the crease with a vicious pull shot for four and delighted the crowd with four more boundaries to race to 24 off 32 balls. Powell, batting comfortably on 38 from 68 balls with six fours, looked to flick a full delivery from quickie Lahiru Kumara and saw his stumps scattered. Roston Chase joined his Bajan compatriot Hope at the crease as Windies went to lunch on 99 for three.
Hope, assured and confident in the morning session, lived a charmed life upon resumption. He nicked Lahiru Gamage to the wicketkeeper in the very first over after lunch but was called back from the pavilion after replays showed it was a no ball. Two overs later, Gamage got revenge, trapping Hope on his pads as the umpire raised the dreaded finger to signal LBW. Hope immediately gave a signal of his own and DRS (Decision Review System) proved the decision was wrong as he had edged the ball.
Hope’s streak of luck was ended by Kumara, gloving a bouncer down the leg-side where Dickwella took the catch on the second attempt.
Chase, who played solidly for 38 runs from 83 balls, then lost his cool and tried to force a quicker delivery from left-arm spinner Rangana Herath through the off-side and was caught at slip. Dowrich, batting alongside his captain, seemed to be in a defensive shell as West Indies went to tea on 153 for five.
Sri Lanka thought they had Holder after the interval, given out LBW for eight off Lakmal but again DRS came to the rescue as a thin inside edge was spotted. An out-of-sorts Dowrich sought to jump start his innings but was lucky to see a top edge fall just short of mid-on.
The near dismissal seemed to spark Dowrich who suddenly became much more positive. Labouring on four off 46 balls, Dowrich was given a short ball down the leg-side and he swivelled to guide it for his first boundary. At the other end, Holder was capitalising on the loose balls and punched a full toss by Kamara to the cover boundary. The pair brought up their 50-run partnership off 111 balls and pushed WI past 200. The fightback seemed to stun Sri Lanka who looked ragged in the field in the final session with two dropped catches, wayward fast bowling and sloppy fielding.
Dowrich (16) and Holder (38) both benefited from drops but it is Dowrich that will worry Sri Lanka overnight. Holder made just two more before he edged Kumara to Dickwella for a battling 40 off 88 balls.
By the time he was dismissed, however, Dowrich looked a different player and will be keen to get his half-century today and possibly much more.