West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite will sleep on 99 not out after boosting his side against Sri Lanka to 287-7 on the first day of the second Test.
Brathwaite carried his bat through the day to the brink of his first Test century since 2018. He took over the captaincy in February from Jason Holder, and has been dying for a big score after only three half-centuries in 16 innings over the past year.
He held together an innings that wobbled at the start and briefly in the middle. His stands of 71 with Kyle Mayers, 51 with Holder, and an unbeaten 65 with Rakheem Cornwall ensured they finished the first day on top.
Brathwaite is trying to lead his side to a third series win against Sri Lanka after the Twenty20s and one-day internationals, while preventing Sri Lanka from a first test series win in the Caribbean. Both teams were unchanged from the drawn first Test last week in the same, empty Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.
Sri Lanka won the toss but the bowling was let down by four dropped catches, two of them expensive. Brathwaite was dropped on 37 at third slip by Oshada Fernando off left-arm quick Vishwa Fernando, and Mayers was dropped on 12 at third slip by Pathum Nissanka off medium-pacer Suranga Lakmal.
Lakmal was the pick of the bowlers, taking 3-71. He started the day with six consecutive maidens, two of them with wickets; opener John Campbell on 5 and Nkrumah Bonner for a duck.
Lakmal's eventful seventh over conceded three boundaries to Mayers, who was then dropped.
Mayers was eventually out for 49 in the first over after lunch. Two others fell in the middle session, Jermaine Blackwood for 18 and Holder for 30 off 34 balls.
Brathwaite should have joined them, but he was dropped on 37. His partner at tea, Joshua Da Silva, was also given a reprieve after a video review of the second ball he faced.
Da Silva was eventually out for 1 after 35 balls, the fifth batsman in seven to edge behind the wickets. Alzarri Joseph, dropped on 28, was out lbw on 29 at 222-7.
But the bowlers flagged at the end of the day. After conceding 86 runs in the first session and 85 in the second, they went for 116 after tea. Brathwaite batted on serenely, facing 239 balls for his 99 not out. He hit 11 boundaries.
Brathwaite received late support from Cornwall, who was 43 not out from 53 balls at stumps. Cornwall is a tailender but in high spirits after producing his test high score of 61 just last week.