West Indies on brink as Herath dazzles

The 37-year-old Herath dominated the third day's proceedings as he helped to bundle out the West Indies for 251 in their first innings, 33 runs short of the follow-on mark. Herath's 23rd five-wicket haul came in his 64th Test and it was his second successive five-wicket haul at Galle.

Rangana Herath is now just 15 short of 300 Test wickets.   -  Reuters

A dazzling display of spin bowling by Rangana Herath left West Indies struggling to avoid an innings defeat Friday in the first Test against Sri Lanka, and still needing another 166 to force their hosts to bat again.

After taking six for 68 in the West Indies' first innings, Herath then claimed the wicket of opener Kraigg Brathwaite, who fell for 34 as play drew to a close, for the second time in the match.

Made to follow on after putting up 251 the first time round, West Indies face a mammoth task to save the match at the Galle International Stadium with two days still left to play.

The 37-year-old Herath dominated the third day's proceedings as he helped to bundle out the West Indies for 251 in their first innings, 33 runs short of the follow-on mark.

Herath's 23rd five-wicket haul came in his 64th Test and it was his second successive five-wicket haul at Galle.

He is now just 15 short of becoming the third Sri Lankan to take 300 Test wickets.

“The wicket has become more bowler-friendly today after it favoured the batsmen on the first two days,” Herath told reporters after play.

“I hope to take more wickets... in this series to reach closer to the 300 wickets mark,” he added.

None of the West Indies players looked comfortable against Herath throughout the day.

Herath's dismissal of Braithwaite was the second wicket to fall in the tourists' second innings, following that of Shai Hope.

The 21-year-old Hope made only six before he became the debutant Milinda Siriwardana's first victim in Test cricket, dragging the ball onto his stumps as he tried a back-foot pull.

Darren Bravo was unbeaten on 20 at stumps, batting alongside the nightwatchman Devendra Bishoo who has made six.

Bravo and Jerome Taylor were the only batsman to offer significant resistance in the West Indies' first innings.

Bravo, who batted confidently to make the highest score of 50 before being dismissed to a sharp catch by Dinesh Chandimal off Herath just before lunch, said it was important for them to remain positive.

“We have to try and erase the lead and that will take a lot of effort,” Bravo said. “It's very important for me to stay positive, being one of the main batters in the team.

“He (Herath) is very consistent. He doesn't give you that amount of bad balls. He is very, very consistent and that is why he probably is one of the best spinners in the world.”

Wickets fell steadily throughout the day and the highest partnership of the first innings was a mere 46.

With the likes of Chris Gayle absent, the West Indies had been relying on experienced campaigner Marlon Samuels to provide some steel but he was bowled by Herath for just 11 in the first innings.

The tourists' score could have been even more dismal if it had not been for a late flourish from their lower order.

The last four wickets contributed 86 runs, with Taylor leading the way with an entertaining innings of 31 which included four boundaries and a six.

Sri Lanka's cause was aided by some outstanding fielding, with Dinesh Chandimal's stunning catch to dismiss Bravo in full flight one of the key moments.

Sri Lanka compiled a formidable first innings total of 484 on the first two days, thanks mainly to big centuries from Chandimal (151) and Dimuth Karunaratne (186).

West Indies have a dismal record in Sri Lanka and have yet to win a Test on the island in nine previous attempts since 1993.