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Spirited Da Silva and Bonner show the way for erring Windies

Last updated on 26 Nov 2021 | 08:10 PM
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Spirited Da Silva and Bonner show the way for erring Windies

Joshua da Silva and Nkrumah Bonner succeeded where West Indies' more experience batters failed in the first Test against Sri Lanka

When West Indies keeper Joshua da Silva joined Nkrumah Bonner at the crease on Day 4 of the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle, the visitors were teetering at 18 for six with no hope of surviving till stumps. Set a stiff total of 348 to chase, the Windies’ collapse started with an uncharacteristic error from captain Kraigg Brathwaite who tried to pull a good length delivery from Ramesh Mendis.

For the next eight overs, Sri Lankan spinners feasted on a glut of errors from the touring batters who had players who had the experience of playing on turning sub-continental pitches on more than one tour. However, it was the rookies - Bonner and Da Silva - who showed them the way.

Dimuth Karunaratne welcomed the pair with a field that would overwhelm any newcomer to the sub-continent. A slip, short forward, short leg, leg slip, a leg gully, and a chirpy Dinesh Chandimal behind the wickets established the hostile intent from the home team, but Da Silva and Bonner were unfazed.

Over two sessions between two days, the pair survived dropped catches, full-blooded shouts for leg before and reviews aided by sophisticated technology as they added exactly 100 runs in 268 balls. Despite the futility of the stand, it was a typical Test match survival guide on foreign soil.

Sultry air and sea breeze were nothing new to the Caribbean duo but dealing with soggy conditions in Asia was the biggest challenge. Pacers would’ve had a field day on the green patches in West Indies, but the deck at Galle offered ample grip and sharp turn for the spinners. 

Languid flourish on the back foot or a sharp twitch with a straight bat only meant doom. Bonner knew it all too well from his dismissal in the first innings. He had attempted a late cut against Praveen Jayawickrama which deflected off the glove and went straight to Dhananjaya de Silva at slip. Da Silva, who was unbeaten on 15 from 94 balls in the first innings, had a good idea on how to control his trigger movements.

For the two hours left on Day 4, both of them defended 60% of the 39 deliveries they played on backfoot, making sure the front foot was stationary which prevented them from losing balance. When on frontfoot, Da Silva took advantage of his better hand-to-eye coordination to attack often while Bonner played into the ground. There were no attempted pull shots which ended Brathwaite and Jermaine Blackwood earlier in the innings.

“Obviously we want to play each ball on its merit, respect the bowlers and put away the bad balls. It’s a simple plan tomorrow, just to bat time and score as much runs as possible,” Bonner said at the end of the day’s play, reminding himself and his teammates of their priorities.

Digging deep a day earlier and proper application helped Bonner and Da Silva when they walked in for first session of the final day. They maintained the percentage of over 60 while defending on the backfoot, but their bats moved in a more relaxed manner. While going on the front foot, they were confident of threading the ball through a packed infield. Lankans spinners, exasperated by the situation, went on the attack and bowled fuller length outside the line which fetched Bonner six boundaries and Da Silva three. Adding to the hosts anxiety was the impeding rain and the constant movement of the ground staff just outside the boundary line.

After a grinding out the first 90 minutes, the pair were rewarded with moments of luck. Da Silva survived a direct hit after Dushmantha Chameera was introduced into the attack shortly after which he dropped twice by slip by Patthum Nissanka. The 23-year old then survived thanks to the limitations of the DRS technology after being hit on the pad by Lasith Embuldeniya. Bonner then got hit on the pads by Mendis and successfully appealed against an lbw decision.

Sri Lanka sensed something and for the first time in his innings of 165 minutes, Da Silva committed to a shot too close to his body which took a thick outside edge fell to Dhananjaya de Silva at slip. Da Silva trudged back, visibly distraught by his mistake as Bonner was left to battle along with the tail enders. Cornwall’s batting credentials offered some hope for the Windies, but his over enthusiasm got a top edge to long off.

Bonner, who reached his fifty shortly after lunch, kept on chatting with Jomel Warrican and kept strike for himself. He looked confident to save a match but lack of support from Warrican and last man Shannon Gabriel meant West Indies slumped to a 187-run defeat.

West Indies still have another Test to level the series at the same venue in two days time and barring rain, they will have time to learn from the spirited resistance from Bonner and Da Silva have shown on their first visit to Sri Lanka.

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