A patient, unbeaten maiden Test hundred by Nkrumah Bonner anchored a day of West Indies batting resistance against Sri Lanka as the home side ground through the fifth and final day of the first Test to ensure a draw on Thursday.
In just his third Test, the 32-year-old Bonner further enhanced an already burgeoning reputation as a middle-order batsman with considerably more substance than style.
He compiled a dogged 113 not out in just over seven hours during which he faced 274 balls, stroking 13 fours and one six. It ensured his team comfortably saved the match at 236/4, having been set the unlikely target of 375.
After missing out on hundreds in each of his first two Test matches in Bangladesh last month, the Jamaican right-hander was not to be denied third time round on a day when the home side needed his brand of resolute solidity once it was determined that getting 341 more runs on the final day with nine wickets in hand was not a realistic prospect.
“I did some work in the nets with the batting coach (Monty Desai) after the first innings and it paid off,” said Bonner. “Sri Lanka’s bowlers are very disciplined and it was important for me to also be disciplined and keep the ball in the ‘V’ for as much as possible.”
He featured in a 105-run third-wicket partnership with Kyle Mayers which occupied almost three hours and effectively killed off Sri Lankan hopes of completing an excellent fightback from a poor first day with victory.
It ensures both teams will have everything to play for when the second and final Test starts at the same Sir Vivian Richards Stadium venue on Monday.
Sri Lanka will be concerned though about the fitness of first-choice wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella who appeared to have either sustained or aggravated a finger injury on more than one occasion during the course of the day, each time requiring prolonged treatment on the field before he continued.
Mayers, who marked his Test debut on that Bangladesh campaign with a sensational, match-winning unbeaten 210 in the first match in Chattogram, curbed his naturally aggressive style admirably in reaching 52 before falling to the left-arm orthodox spin of Lasith Embuldeniya at the start of the final session.
Embuldeniya had claimed Sri Lanka’s lone success of the morning’s play when he removed Kraigg Brathwaite to keep the tourists’ hopes alive at that stage of pressing for the win later in the day.
Having batted with exaggerated care in getting to 23 off 124 balls, the West Indies captain charged down the pitch to be bowled 20 minutes before lunch, terminating a partnership of 66 for the second wicket.
Sri Lankan hopes again flickered briefly in the final session as Mayers’ demise was followed by the dismissal of Jermaine Blackwood, bowled by the impressive Vishwa Fernando operating with the second new ball to give the fast bowler his second wicket of the innings.
At 204 for four, and with more than an hour left to play, the visitors kept pressing for more success but Bonner and former captain Jason Holder ensured there were no more alarms for a West Indian team grateful to come away from the match with a draw.
“I am really pleased with the way we fought back in the second innings,” said Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne in reflecting on the entire match.
“Today, maybe we tried too hard sometimes but the pitch got better and better to bat on and you have to give credit to Bonner and the rest of the West Indies batsmen.
“At least we know now what to expect from the pitch as we go into the second Test.”