Sri Lanka 169 (Thirimanne 70, Holder 5 for 27) and 476 (Nissanka 103, Dickwella 96, Oshada 91) drew with West Indies 271 (Cornwall 61, Da Silva 46, Lakmal 5-47) and 236 for 4 (Bonner 113*, Embuldeniya 2-62)
Nkrumah Bonner blunted the Sri Lanka seamers all day, defused the spin of Lasith Embuldeniya, and batted out 274 balls, as he provided the spine to West Indies’ tenacious resistance on day five. He was unbeaten at the close on 113, with only three West Indies wickets having fallen, thanks to excellent supporting innings from Kyle Mayers, Kraigg Brathwaite and Jason Holder.
Sri Lanka’s bowlers were doughty and disciplined through long, difficult periods, but the Antigua surface had not deteriorated substantially enough to make them menacing. Only towards the very end of the day did Embuldeniya get deliveries to turn and bounce drastically. The seamers still got a little movement off the deck, but the pitch had slowed, and even the balls that did beat the bat generally died before they reached the wicketkeeper. Only Vishwa Fernando, who claimed two wickets in the innings and bowled the most aggressive lengths, went at more than three an over. Embuldeniya claimed the two other wickets to fall.
Despite their heroics chasing 395 in Chattogram last month, at no point did West Indies attempt the target of 375 here. This must have been at least partly because the pitch had slowed to such an extent that rapid run-scoring was difficult. When Dimuth Karunaratne decided that no result was possible and called off the rest of the match, West Indies had 236 for four. Mayers was the only other batsman to pass fifty, but Brathwaite had batted out 124 balls in the innings.
Bonner’s maiden Test century was a feat of self-denial. Early in the day, Bonner had collected a couple of streaky boundaries (a top edge over the keeper, and an edge through vacant third slip) but largely, he settled into a slow, unambitious rhythm, leaving the balls wide of the stumps, defending plenty, and picking up singles, generally square of the wicket. It wasn’t until the 16th over of the day that he struck his first intentional boundary, drilling a Dushmantha Chameera full toss straight of midwicket. He got to his half-century just before the lunch break, and then took his sweet time getting back into run-scoring mode after the break. During that period he was given out caught behind off Embuldeniya, but Bonner reviewed immediately and was shown not to have edged that delivery.
His progress through the rest of the day was measured and steady, but confident. He once slog swept Embuldeniya for six, and later in the wicketless middle session that he shared with Mayers, hit the spinner again for two legside fours in three balls. These were brief moments of excitement in an otherwise obstinate innings. There was one nervy moment in the 90s, when he was struck on the pad by Vishwa Fernando and Sri Lanka reviewed that decision. The ball, though, was shown to only be grazing the top of the stumps, and because it was deemed an “umpire’s call” the original decision stood.
Bonner reached his century with a four through point midway through the third session, off the 243rd ball he faced. This was only Bonner’s third first-class ton in 134 innings, and yet, his Test career has begun in spectacular fashion – this hundred following a Player-of-the-series winning, tour of Bangladesh, where he scored a 86 and 90.
Mayers, the only other batsman to pass 50 in this inning, was more adventurous than Bonner without being especially attacking himself. Untroubled by the strong lbw review Sri Lanka raised against him (a review that was ultimately unsuccessful), he creamed Lakmal through the covers, struck Embuldeniya past slip, and had soon settled inot a diet of singles alongside Bonner. He got to his 50 off his 109th delivery and was out soon after tea, when he edged Embuldeniya to slip. He and Bonner had batted out the middle session without a dismissal, and put on 105 together.
Sri Lanka struck twice in relatively quick succession after tea, with Vishwa bowling Jermaine Blackwood for 4, but with six wickets still to get, West Indies always seemed likely to play out the draw. Jason Holder batted out 48 balls to ensure there were no further incidents.
Although several of Sri Lanka’s bowlers were miserly, Lakmal deserves an especial mention for his accuracy through out the match. In this innings, he delivered 25 overs, and conceded only 33, bowling 10 maidens. In the first innings, his 25 overs had brought him 5 for 47.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf