NORTH SOUND: Pathum Nissanka was heading towards a hundred on debut as Sri Lanka reached 359 for five in their second innings, a lead of 257 runs, at lunch in the first Test against the West Indies at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium on Wednesday.
Nissanka, who lost overnight partner Dhananjaya de Silva in the first over of the morning, was 74 not out at the interval having put on 100 for the sixth-wicket with Niroshan Dickwella (38 not out).
West Indian delight at the early success when fast bowler Alzarri Joseph, operating with the second new ball, dismissed de Silva for an even 50 proved to be short-lived as the 22-year-old newcomer found another solid partner in the pugnacious Dickwella.
Captain Kraigg Brathwaite even brought himself on for a spell of part-time off-spin in an increasingly desperate attempt to separate the pairing, but to no avail.
There was no luck either for all-rounder Kyle Mayers.
Nissanka, whose partnership with de Silva for the fifth wicket was worth 70 runs, has so far faced 161 deliveries and stroked five fours in a composed innings.
West Indies struggled to recapture the bowling discipline and consistency of the first innings as the runs flowed with increasing freedom for the Sri Lankan pair to the extent that 104 runs came off 25 overs, a stark contrast to the generally pedestrian rate of scoring in the first three days of the match.
Earlier on Tuesday, Oshada Fernando and Lahiru Thirimanne led a Sri Lankan fightback as the tourists reached 255 for four in their second innings, a lead of 153, at close of play on the third day.
With the other Fernando in the team, fast-medium bowler Visha, doing just what was required in the taking the last two West Indies first innings wickets at the start of the day to dismiss the home side for 271, it was the fluent middle-order batsman Oshada who starred with an innings of 91 in a 162-run second wicket partnership with Thirimanne.
Fernando, in just his eighth Test, came to crease in the fifth over of the innings when his captain Dimuth Karunaratne, failed for the second time in the match, driving loosely at Kemar Roach to give John Campbell a straightforward catch at third slip.
The 28-year-old Fernando was given a life on 17 when he was dropped at leg-slip by Jason Holder off off-spinner Rahkeem Cornwall but looked assured throughout his innings which spanned 149 deliveries and included 11 fours.
Fernando appeared destined for a second Test hundred until Brathwaite, in what was either a moment of inspiration or desperation, brought on Mayers as his seventh bowler of the innings.
The occasional medium-pacer met with instant success as Fernando pushed at his first ball, a full-length delivery just outside off-stump, and edged a catch to wicket-keeper Joshua Da Silva.