| Wavell Hinds sweeps one en route to his century in St Lucia. (AFP)
Gros Islet (St Lucia): Wavell Hinds struck 113 and captain Brian Lara an unbeaten 80 to put West Indies in command at lunch on the third day of the first Test against Sri Lanka on Sunday.
West Indies were 272 for four when heavy rain brought an early end to the third day’s play. Brian Lara was unbeaten on 93 while Marlon Samuels (5) was keeping him company. The only wicket to fall in the post-lunch session was that of Ramnaresh Sarwan (7).
In reply to Sri Lanka’s first innings of 354, the home side finished the morning session on 253 for three, left-handers Hinds and Lara having shared in a stand of 174 for the third wicket.
Hinds hit eight fours and four sixes in a solid 113 before he was run out by Maravan Atapattu in the 56th over of the innings, following a mix-up with Lara.
The left-handed Hinds had fallen out of favour with the West Indies selectors, but was recalled for the Sri Lanka series after Shivnarine Chanderpaul was ruled out with a broken finger.
He fully justified his recall with his fourth Test century, and helped put the home side in control following the loss of openers Chris Gayle, for 27, and Daren Ganga, 12, shortly before the close of play on Day II.
Hinds survived an early scare on Sunday, having added 13 to his overnight unbeaten 74, when he spooned a Chaminda Vaas delivery to mid-off where Prabath Nissanka spilt the simple chance.
Lara was on the receiving end of several noisy appeals for leg before by spin bowlers Muttiah Muralidharan and Kaushal Lokuarachchi, but relentlessly built his innings.
In partnership with Ramnaresh Sarwan, batting on six at lunch, he ensured that West Indies reached the interval with comfort.
On Saturday, the West Indies kept Muralidharan at bay to reach 161 for two in their first innings in reply to Sri Lanka’s 354.
The off-spinner dismissed Gayle in his second over to reduce the West Indies to 66 for two, but Hinds and skipper Brian Lara denied Sri Lanka further success with their bold and exciting stroke-play.
Muralidharan conceded 39 runs in his first six overs before being removed from the attack. The left-handed pair put on 95 for the unfinished third-wicket stand off just 17.1 overs.
Earlier, the West Indies had nearly squandered the advantage given by fast bowler Corey Collymore, who finished with five for 66 in only his second Test. Collymore had enhanced the hosts’ chances of restricting Sri Lanka to below 300, only to see his teammates struggle to polish off the tail.
Sri Lanka were tottering at 288 for eight after resuming at 250 for four, but Chaminda Vaas helped his team add 66 for the last two wickets with Muralidharan and Prabath Nissanka.
After that, Lara and Hinds steadied the innings. Both batsmen severely punished Muralidharan as Hinds swung the spinner for two of his four sixes, while Lara flicked and swept for two boundaries early in his innings.
The morning session belonged to Collymore, a 25-year-old Barbadian returning to the Test team after taking just one wicket in his only previous outing in 1999 against Australia.
Sri Lanka failed to cope with his pace and bounce as they lost four wickets in a space of 38 runs. (AFP)