Kusal Mendis keeps SL fighting in improbable chase

Kusal Mendis gets down for a sweep
West Indies v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Port of Spain, 4th day June 09, 2018

Sri Lanka 185 and 176 for 3 (K Mendis 94*, Mathews 31) need another 277 runs to beat West Indies 414 for 8 dec and 223 for 7 dec (Powell 88, Kumara 3-40)

Setting Sri Lanka a monumental 453 to chase before removing three top-order wickets, West Indies continued to stride towards victory in Trinidad. The man who stood in their way on day four was Kusal Mendis. He survived two nicks behind the wicket to move to 94 not out by stumps. He forged 50-plus stands with Angelo Mathews and Roshen Silva, but neither of those batsmen appeared as comfortable at the crease as Mendis. The only other batsman who looked in good touch was Dinesh Chandimal. He retired ill after facing 23 deliveries, however, due to symptoms of sun-stroke. Chandimal did not bat for the remainder of the day, but is expected to return to the crease on Sunday.

As has been the case throughout the Test, West Indies' progress was driven by an array of players. Kieran Powell, who resumed on 64, added a further 24 runs to the score, before miscuing a Dilruwan Perera ball to midwicket. Jason Holder played an aggressive innings to help set up the declaration - four fours and a six in his 40-ball 39. Devendra Bishoo and Kemar Roach added 16 and 11 respectively as well, hoisting the lead beyond 450 just after lunch.

The quicks were not as intense early in the second innings as they had been in the first, but were nevertheless menacing in patches. Shannon Gabriel took Kusal Perera's wicket with an away-seamer in the fourth over, and tested all the Sri Lanka top-order batsmen with short deliveries. Kemar Roach, Miguel Cummins and Jason Holder also found movement with the new ball and caused occasional discomfort - all three making use of the short ball on a track that still had some bounce in it. Holder, in fact, would take a wicket with a waist-high ball, Mathews unable to get more than a glove to a delivery angled down legside. Bishoo, who for the first time in the Test was getting turn out of this surface, also claimed a wicket with a modest delivery. Spotting a shortish legbreak, Roshen bunted an easy catch back to the bowler in the twilight, when he could have quite easily defended.

Mendis had two major moments of good fortune during his innings. The first came in the fourth over of the innings, in which Shannon Gabriel had earlier had Kusal Perera caught in the slips. Squaring Mendis up with a rib-height delivery, Gabriel had the ball graze Mendis' edge on its way to the keeper, but although West Indies were raucous in appeal, they opted not to review the not out decision. Much later, when Mendis was on 46, he got a toe-end to a turning Bishoo delivery, only for wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich to fumble the chance. At other times he had his edge beaten, or had the ball leap up to take his splice. But mostly he was secure in defence. Although this was a more reserved innings than he often plays, he did not shelve the aggression entirely. When there were cuts or drives to be ventured, those shots fetched him plenty of runs. Towards the end of the day, when Kemar Roach tried to bounce him, Mendis even played a pull shot for six. Of Mendis' four Test hundreds so far, three are scores of 170-plus. Sri Lanka will need a similar effort on Sunday, if they are to make anything of this game.

In the morning, West Indies suffered regular dismissals, but marched smartly to their enormous lead. Powell was out for 88, having been less fluent on day four than he had been the previous evening. But it was low-stakes cricket for them. The hosts had begun the day with a lead of 360; the objective in delaying the declaration had been largely to tire out the Sri Lanka outfit.

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