West Indies, who were 18/6 at one point on day four, showed tremendous grit but could not avoid defeat as Sri Lanka wrapped up the innings in the second session of day five to take a 1-0 series lead.
After running through the top order of the West Indies on the fourth day, Sri Lanka’s spinners were forced to toil on day five, bowling 48.3 overs for the last four wickets. Off-spinner Ramesh Mendis started the day with four wickets, but it was left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya who finished with a five-wicket haul, his third in 11 Tests, claiming all but one of the wickets that fell on day five. The other was taken by Praveen Jayawickrama. Sri Lanka’s three frontline spinners took 18 wickets between them in the 187-run victory.
On day five, Nkrumah Bonner defied Sri Lanka for 173 balls, and Joshua da Silva joined him for a 100-run, 44.4-over stand, but rain did not fall until minutes after Sri Lanka claimed the final wicket to clinch victory in Galle.
Bonner and da Silva fought hard during their morning resistance, attempting a few run-scoring strokes and generally displaying a level of concentration and application unseen from West Indies batters thus far in the match. They had opposing styles, with da Silva more comfortable on the front foot and more likely to sweep and rotate strike.
They were both fortunate. There were edges that fell short of slip, aerial mis-hits that landed in space, deliveries that barely missed the stumps and the outside edge, and missed chances on a treacherous track. When the pair attempted a quick single on 19, da Silva could have been run out, but the cover fielder’s throw missed the stumps.
Pathum Nissanka dropped da Silva on 23 when he inside-edged a big-spinning Mendis delivery, but he couldn’t hold on to a difficult chance at leg slip, diving to his right.
Later, Nissanka would squish another difficult short leg opportunity, this time off Bonner. But, as long as the rain held off, it appeared as if Sri Lanka would continue to create opportunities, given how quickly the surface turned.
With da Silva’s dismissal just before lunch, West Indies’ chances of securing a draw were significantly reduced. He had reached fifty off 121 balls when he was squared up by a turning Embuldeniya delivery a few overs later, and the resulting edge was held by Dhananjaya de Silva at slip.
Rahkeem Cornwall then joined Bonner and put in a 46-ball shift until he ran out of patience, toe-edging a catch to mid-off when attempting to heave Jayawickrama down the ground. Warrican, the No. 10, batted for 20 balls before giving a bat-pad catch to silly mid-off. Shannon Gabriel, whom Bonner was desperately attempting to protect from the strike, was also squared up and caught at slip off Embuldeniya after a six-ball stay. Bonner finished unbeaten on 68 from 220 balls.
The win was perhaps a just reward for Sri Lanka, whose top order, led by Dimuth Karunaratne, had dominated in both innings and whose spinners had made good use of the favorable conditions. In their first match of the cycle, they earn 12 World Test Championship points. West Indies have 12 points as well, but they have only played three games.