Kraigg Brathwaite posted his first half-century of the Sri Lanka tour to bring the West Indies within striking distance during the second Test in Galle on Wednesday.
The tourists were 145-2 at lunch on day three, losing just one wicket in the extended morning session in reply to Sri Lanka’s 204 all out.
Brathwaite’s straightforward footwork and impregnable defence were a vital bulwark for the West Indies after two top order collapses in the first Test.
The skipper cashed in when loose balls were on offer and was relentless against Sri Lanka’s two left-arm spinners, forcing the hosts to recalibrate to boundary protection.
Once the field was spread, Brathwaite was happy to rotate the strike, picking up singles frequently. He reached his 23rd Test half-century with a single to square leg off Ramesh Mendis.
His second-wicket partnership with Nkrumah Bonner, the first Test standout, was worth 75 and the pair dictated terms on a fast-deteriorating wicket.
Off-spinner Mendis eventually broke the drought with a ball pitched on middle stump that rapped the pads of Bonner, who had gone on the back foot to defend.
The West Indies have never won a Test in Sri Lanka and trail the series 0-1.
The second Test has been plagued by inclement weather and bad light, with the West Indies trailing by 135 overnight.
Sri Lanka are without the services of their leading batsman Angelo Mathews with a hamstring tear. He is not fielding and will bat only if required.
Mathews stepped off during the first innings and briefly returned at the fall of the ninth wicket, but was struggling to run and was the last man dismissed on 29.