West Indies are yet to win a Test in Sri Lanka. They have lost eight of their 12 Tests in this country, while the remaining four have ended in a draw. Sri Lanka is the only place where West Indies haven’t won a single Test. Kraigg Brathwaite and Co. were outplayed in all three facets of the game in the first Test and ended up losing the match by 187 runs, giving Dimuth Karunaratne’s men a 1-0 lead in the two-match series. West Indies won a couple of closely-fought matches in Bangladesh earlier this year and will look to take some inspiration from that series win when they take on Sri Lanka in the second and final Test in Galle, starting on Monday (November 29).
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka have commenced their new World Test Championship cycle with an authoritative win. They too have got numerous flaws but are still a very tough opponent to beat at home. Their skipper Karunaratne is in the form of his life, while the spin troika of Lasith Embuldeniya, Praveen Jayawickrama and Ramesh Mendis could once again prove to be perilous for West Indies. The hosts have got everything in their favour and will be eager to give their head coach Mickey Arthur a fitting farewell.
West Indies batters need to step up
West Indies have been very inconsistent with the bat for quite some time now. They were reduced to 18/6 at one stage in the final innings before Nkrumah Bonner (68*) and wicketkeeper-batter Joshua Da Silva (54) put on 100 runs for the seventh wicket and propelled their team to a respectable total in the second innings. It was only because of them that West Indies managed to stretch the game to the final day. They have the worst batting average and balls per wicket in this format since 2020. Bonner (41.5) is the only West Indies batter who averages more than 40 in 2021.
In fact, West Indies' lower-order (48.2) has a better ball per dismissal ratio than their top-order (40.1) and middle-order (47). The likes of Jermaine Blackwood, Brathwaite, Roston Chase and Shai Hope have all been very inconsistent and will have to click as a unit if West Indies want to compete in the second Test. Da Silva, who batted at No. 9 in the first innings and at No. 8 in the second, looked solid against spin and could easily bat in the top-seven. There’s no news on Jeremy Solozano’s availability, but even if he is not fit, West Indies could easily play an extra bowler in place of Hope, who averages close to 15 in this format since 2020.
Karunaratne continues to dominate
The Sri Lankan skipper has become a different beast altogether in Test cricket this year. The left-handed opener has scored 854 Test runs at an average of 77.63 in 2021, with seven 50-plus scores in his last six innings. He is now just one shy of equalling the world record. There are six batters who have managed seven consecutive 50-plus scores in Test cricket. Karunaratne scored 147 and 83 in the first Test and was named player of the match.
"Their skipper has a lot to do with that team. He probably made 250 runs in the first Test match. Take out him; their batting is not that long to me. (Angelo) Mathews is a good player and (Dinesh) Chandimal is a good player, but Dimuth is really the player we need to get out early. In the last Test, he got a few chances that haunted us for sure, because they made a big first-innings total. In the second Test, if we take our chances, we have a better chance. Getting him out is a big thing for us," said Bonner.
In 2021, Sri Lanka’s opening pair (56.2) has the best average and the onus will once again be on Karunaratne to score big in the second Test. Meanwhile, in the absence of Lahiru Thirimanne, who made himself unavailable for the West Indies series, young opener Pathum Nissanka stepped up and scored a steady fifty in the first innings of the first Test. The likes of Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva and Chandimal were also amongst the runs in the first encounter and if Sri Lanka could manage to get close to that 400-run mark, Embuldeniya and Co. could make life hell for West Indies.
Sri Lanka - Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Pathum Nissanka, Oshada Fernando, Dhananjaya de Silva, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Ramesh Mendis, Suranga Lakmal, Dushmantha Chameera, Lasith Embuldeniya, Praveen Jayawickrama.
West Indies - Kraigg Brathwaite (c), Jermaine Blackwood, Nkrumah Bonner, Shai Hope/Jeremy Solozano (subject to fitness), Roston Chase, Kyle Mayers, Jason Holder, Joshua Da Silva (wk), Rahkeem Cornwall, Jomel Warrican, Shannon Gabriel/Kemar Roach.
All stats till November 26, 2021.