Sri Lanka play on ‘under protest’ after ‘ball tamper’ row

The Sri Lankans had refused to take the field following a decision by umpires to charge the tourists with altering the state of the ball during the latter stages of the second day’s play.   -  AFP

Sri Lanka agreed to keep playing the second Test against West Indies on Saturday “under protest” after getting caught up in a ball-tampering row.

Play only resumed after a two-hour delay after the Sri Lankans, led by captain Dinesh Chandimal, had refused to take the field following a decision by umpires Aleem Dar and Ian Gould to charge the tourists with altering the state of the ball during the latter stages of the second day’s play.

They were assessed five penalty runs although that relatively minor punishment was inconsequential compared to the Sri Lankans’ obvious anger at being accused of what amounts to cheating.

Animated discussions ensued involving match referee Javagal Srinath and the Sri Lankan pair of coach Chandika Hathurusingha and team manager Asanka Gurusinha.

It appeared for some time that the day’s play at least -- and possibly the rest of the match -- might be in doubt.

However, it was after these deliberations that the Sri Lankans agreed to the change of ball and to continue playing.

But after initially appearing to be prepared to resume the match, the Sri Lankans hesitated even as they were making their way out to the middle, resulting in further discussions before they were finally persuaded to get the day’s play underway two hours later than scheduled.

In a statement, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) solidly backed their players.

“The team management has informed us that Sri Lankan players have not engaged in any wrongdoing,” said SLC.

It was communication with the team’s board in Colombo which finally persuaded Chandimal and his men to continue with the match.

“SLC advised the team to take the field to ensure the continuity of the match and wish to commend the decision taken by the team ‘under protest’ to ensure the upholding of the spirit of the game,” added the statement.

For their part, the sport’s governing body, the International Cricket Council, reserved the right to take punitive action.

“If there are any, Code of Conduct charges will follow as per usual at close of play,” tweeted the ICC.

When play eventually resumed, Sri Lanka fought well to limit the West Indies first innings lead to 47 runs as the hosts, who started the day at 118 for two, lost their last six wickets for 59 runs to be dismissed in the final session for 300.

Lahiru Kumara was again their most outstanding bowler, constantly threatening with his pace and aggression to finish with figures of four for 86 and lift his wicket tally to 11 halfway through the series.

Opening batsman Devon Smith top scored with a painstaking 61 while Shane Dowrich, fresh from a match-winning unbeaten century in the first Test in Trinidad, contributed 55.

It was the wicketkeeper-batsman’s 78-run fifth-wicket partnership with Roston Chase (41) which threatened to earn the West Indies a significant first innings advantage.

However, Kumara removed Chase in the first over with the second new ball and that opened the door for the Sri Lankans to significantly restrict the progress of the Caribbean side’s often resilient lower order.

Shannon Gabriel, as he has done in every innings so far in this series, claimed an early wicket in the Sri Lanka second innings when Kusal Perera fell to a catch by Dowrich in the penultimate over of the day.

Barring any other dramatic overnight developments, the visitors will resume on 34 for one, needing just another 13 runs to erase the first innings deficit with debutants Mahela Udawatte and Kasun Rajitha, doing the job of nightwatchman, at the crease.