As all roads in the West Indies lead to St. Lucia, the clock points to 2003, the first that the West Indies played Sri Lanka at the Darren Sammy stadium.
Back then, amid the greats, Brian Lara roasted Sri Lanka for a dominant double hundred. A run-feast happened, where Marvan Atapattu, Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumara Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena all piled on runs but a mega-draw was achieved.
West Indies enjoy a mixed result at Darren Sammy Stadium
The last that the West Indies played at the Darren Sammy stadium, 2016, St. Lucia had buried the famous 2003 result several inches underneath.
Against India’s Virat-power, the likes of Ashwin and Saha were enough to pile on West Indies’ agony. A lowly 59 was contributed by someone who could’ve been another Brian Lara in making: Darren Bravo.
As the West Indies revisit a ground where they have mixed feelings, there’ll be nevertheless a quiet spring of confidence in their feet.
After all, nearly a week ago, they punctured Sri Lanka ambitiously at Trinidad, their opponents basking in the glory of not one but two Mendis’, not one but two Kusal’s.
It took something special from the wicket-keeping batsman, Shane Dowrich, who constructed a remarkable monument of poise, following his unbeaten 125.
It was fitting in the sense that amid massive protests staged outside the Queen’s Park Oval, in Trinidad (right before the start of the First Test) fans complaining about Ramdin’s exclusion were silenced by Dowrich’s knock.
Was a career dethroned and another safeguarded?
It was ironical that what might’ve furthered the case for Dowrich’s continued contention for a Test spot resulted in a hundred at Denesh Ramdin’s hometown- Trinidad and Tobago.
Above everything, that fantastic 125 by the quaint keeper led to a major West Indies win. And it involved a rearguard action involving Jason Holder, contributing 40 vital runs in a 90-run sixth wicket partnership, indicating signs of the talented batsman as the home side struck a massive 414 in the first inning.
In all fairness to the great West Indies win, thumping by every standard considering it was not only by a margin of 226 runs but clinical in vastly improved bowling standards, there weren’t have been many who could’ve predicted an easy rout at Trinidad.
It’s got nothing to do with the team’s individual thrust of talents. It reflects how infrequently and inconsistently does the side stick around to produce a team result.
“Our lower batting order is among the best in the world”
Usually, a quiet, content cricketer and someone who exercises economy in expression, the unusual enthusiasm in captain Holder’s words pointed to a how well did the likes of Chase and Roach support clearly the bowler of the First Test: Miguel Cummins.
Even as the Bajan trinity of Kraigg Brathwaite, Roston Chase and Shai Hope managed nothing significant, the vice-captain failing to reach 20 in both innings, the West Indies were able to produce a master-class in focus and defiance, Holder himself chipping in as did Roach to support Dowrich.
Can that happen again? In fact, should there be a need if the opening troika- once again involving Kraigg Brathwaite (due for a score), comeback batsman Devon Smith and, Kieron Powell get going?
While there was nothing wrong about Powell’s belligerent second-inning effort, a handy 86 justifying the leftie to hold his Test spot, there was considerable dullness in the runs column against Braithwaite and, Smith’s names.
There’s no reason that cannot change unless the batsmen prefer to dodge the golden rule of Test cricket: do not flirt with the moving delivery going away from off.
That said, Sri Lanka will not take their Trinidad-hammering lightly
That in Dinesh Chandimal and Kusal Mendis, the latter contributing a valiant 102 in the second inning, Sri Lanka have flair and determination cannot be doubted.
But that they took someone like a Roston Chase- not the most threatening offie, albeit one gifted with a wicket-taking knack- lightly cannot be ruled out.
Sri Lankan problems will proliferate if they continue to chase shots where there are none.
And a Sri Lankan ascendency will be certain if they continue to tire out West Indian bowlers- a mighty talented bunch that may not possess the experience of showing tenacity when the chips are down- whether batting first or second.
But that told, it will be vital for Chandimal to score. Would it make sense in remembering how he committed the second-inning harakiri right before lunch on Day 5?
The biggest trouble, however, would be to draft, able replacements in the playing XI for St. Lucia, as Angelo Mathews and Lahiru Gamage have been ruled out.
Is there’s a chance in including Dhananjaya de Silva in?
Regardless of what strategy Sri Lanka opt, West Indies will look to assert themselves, as they did in Trinidad.
And what would lift their chances would be a mighty score from any of their reliant heroes- Roston Chase, Shai Hope or Kraigg Brathwaite.