West Indies skipper Shivnarine Chanderpaul plays into the on-side during his unbeaten innings of 69 on the opening day of the first Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo. - DELLMAR
CAPTAIN SHIVNARINE Chanderpaul and debutant Denesh Ramdin scored half centuries to guide West Indies to 271-6 on the opening day of their two-Test series against Sri Lanka yesterday.
The inexperienced tourists, missing 10 leading players due to a protracted player contracts dispute, were expected to struggle against a full-strength Sri Lanka team but produced a battling display that left the home side frustrated.
Chanderpaul, the only West Indies player with more than 10 caps experience, led from the front with a skilful and tenacious 69 not out, an innings that mixed crab-like defence with sweetly-timed clips and drives.
The 30-year-old left-hander added 79 in 1 1/2 hours with Ramdin and another 79 with off spinner Omari Banks after the tea interval in an unbroken seventh-wicket stand.
The partnerships helped West Indies recover from a shaky 113-5 and gave them a chance of posting a respectable first-innings score after their brave decision to bat first under overcast skies.
"It was a good tough day of Test cricket on a good batting pitch and our guys fought hard throughout most of the day," Sri Lanka's new coach Tom Moody said.
"The West Indies showed a lot of character and batted well throughout the day.
"There were some signs that we have not played Test cricket for a few months but we got better and better as the day went on and I'm sure that will continue as the game progresses.
"The game is very much in the balance at the moment."
Teenage wicketkeeper Ramdin, a 19-year-old from Trinidad and Tobago, kick-started the fight-back with a powerful 56 from 73 balls that included nine boundaries.
Ramdin rode his luck against the fast bowlers, edging on three separate occasions either over or just wide of a large cordon of slips, while Chanderpaul lived fortuitously against spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan.
Muralitharan bowled tightly and with growing confidence on his return to the international arena after an 11-month lay-off after two shoulder operations, finishing with one for 56 from 29 overs.
The 33-year-old off spinner, who came close to trapping Chanderpaul lbw with his doosra on a couple of occasions, was not helped by an easy-paced pitch that offers the prospect of a high-scoring Test match.
Earlier, Sri Lanka had made an ideal start to their 150th Test when Chaminda Vaas swung back a delivery into the pads of 19-year-old Xavier Marshall (10) to win an lbw.
Runako Morton, 26, then showed early fight with a plucky and aggressive 43 from 74 balls, sharing a useful 58 run stand for the second wicket with Sylvester Joseph.
Sri Lanka regained their initiative before the lunch break though when rookie all-rounder Gayan Wijekoon was awarded a marginal lbw appeal against Joseph.
Muralitharan then bowled Morton after luring the right-hander into ambitious drive.
West Indies went to lunch on 105-3 before slipping deeper into the mire immediately after as Narsingh Deonarine (12) was caught behind flashing at a wide delivery from Malinga.
Dwaine Smith was trapped plumb lbw two balls later by a fast full-length Malinga inswinger.
Ramdin, one of three debutants in the West Indies side, reacted positively to the crisis and stroked his way to a maiden fifty off just 64 balls.
"I was surprised to not have any butterflies and I just went out there looking to be positive," Ramdin told reporters.
"It was a shame to not get a hundred but maybe I can do that in the second innings."
West Indies first innings
S. Joseph lbw Wijekoon 28
X. Marshall lbw Vaas 10
R. Morton b Muralitharan 43
N. Deonarine c Sangakkara b Malinga 12
S. Chanderpaul not out 69
D. Smith lbw Malinga 4
D. Ramdin b Wijekoon 56
O. Banks not out 30
Extras: (lb-6 nb-13) 19
Total: (for six wkts - 82 overs) 271
Fall: 1-14 2-72 3-95 4-109 5-113 6-192
Bowling: Vaas 13-3-26-1, Malinga 11-0-67-2 (nb-8), Wijekoon 10-1-49-2, Muralitharan 29-8-56-1, Herath 14-1-52-0, Jayasuriya 5-1-15-0.