Sri Lanka 267 for 3 (Karunaratne 132*, de Silva 56*, Nisaanka 56) vs West Indies
Dimuth Karunaratne hunkered down in the difficult first session, scored more confidently in the afternoon, and then pressed home Sri Lanka's advantage in the evening, to go to stumps at 132 off 265 balls in his first Test since May. Pathum Nissanka and Dhananjaya de Silva also made contrasting fifties, to help their captain bookend the day with big stands. On a surface that is expected to dry out and take turn by day three, Sri Lanka's 267 for 3 represents a substantial advantage for the hosts.
West Indies will rue a number of close and missed chances, none greater than the dropped catch off Karunaratne when he was on 14. Rahkeem Cornwall, who perhaps put Karunaratne through his greatest test of the innings with his first spell, got a ball to take the outside edge as the batter attempted to open the face. It flew just wide of the wicketkeeper's gloves, and at a catchable height to the right of slip. Jermaine Blackwood could not get two hands to the ball, though, and grassed it.
Offspin was West Indies' most effective weapon on day one, with Roston Chase removing Oshada Fernando and Angelo Mathews, both for 3, after tea. Their best bowler, however, was Jason Holder, who delivered eight maiden overs in his total of 14, and troubled Mathews so consistently that it prompted the batter to take a fatal risk against Chase.
Shannon Gabriel, who was controversially preferred over Kemar Roach for this Test, was the other bowler to take a wicket, when he had Nissanka chase a wide delivery, and nick off to first slip roughly midway through the middle session. Gabriel was expensive, though, leaking 56 runs from his 12 overs. Both frontline spinners - Cornwall and left-armer Jomel Warrican - also delivered good spells, particularly in the morning, when the pitch had a little bite.
Karunaratne struggled in the early overs, as you might expect from a batter who has barely played any competitive cricket over the past six months. He played and missed against Gabriel and Holder, and was pinned down by Cornwall, who used the crease to vary his angle to the left-hander from around the wicket. With the benefit of that dropped catch, though, Karunaratne survived, and began to build. He went to lunch on 32 off 75 balls, and raised the tempo after the break - the conditions having settled somewhat. He used his feet to drive the spinners through mid-off, and sometimes shuffled across to either lap or glance them through fine leg - his two most productive regions. The seamers he largely hit square of the wicket, often employing his favoured flick.
Karunaratne got to fifty soon after lunch, and had a second mild slice of fortune soon after, when he hit one low in the air through the legs of bowler Cornwall, who was not quick enough to get down to the possible catch. But the remainder of his innings was largely fuss-free. He used the depth of the crease to punish spinners who pitched too short, and although his first attempt at a reverse sweep had prompted a big lbw appeal, he got better with that shot through the course of the day. Karunaratne did get stuck in the nineties for 29 balls, but that was largely the doing of Holder's impeccable line and length. The hundred, which came off 212 deliveries, was the 13th of his career, and his fourth this year - his previous four innings having brought 66, 118, 244 and 75. Earlier in 2021, he'd also hit a second-innings hundred at The Wanderers.
Karunaratne's most fruitful stand of the day was with Nissanka, who hit 56 off 140 balls. The pair made 139 together, which is a Sri Lankan record for the first wicket against West Indies. Although Karunaratne was reticent through the first session, Nissanka had been even more so, having been promoted to the top of the innings due to the elected absence of Lahiru Thirimanne.
Late in the day, after West Indies' dry bowling had brought them two wickets, de Silva came in at No. 5 and livened up the place, as he often does. He creamed his fourth ball behind point for four, came down the track against the spinners and hit them aerially down the ground, swept effectively, square drove, and reached his ninth Test fifty off the 62nd ball he faced.
West Indies took the second new ball late in the day, but could not make a breakthrough before bad light stopped play two overs short of what would have constituted a full day.