Pathum Nissanka was heading towards a hundred on debut as Sri Lanka reached 359 for five in their second innings, a lead of 257 runs, at lunch in the first Test against the West Indies at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua on Wednesday.
Nissanka, who lost overnight partner Dhananjaya de Silva in the first over of the morning, was 74 not out at the interval having put on 100 for the sixth-wicket with Niroshan Dickwella (38 not out).
West Indian delight at the early success when fast bowler Alzarri Joseph, operating with the second new ball, dismissed de Silva for an even 50 proved to be short-lived as the 22-year-old newcomer found another solid partner in the pugnacious Dickwella.
Captain Kraigg Brathwaite even brought himself on for a spell of part-time off-spin in an increasingly desperate attempt to separate the pairing, but to no avail.
There was no luck either for all-rounder Kyle Mayers, who broke a 162-run second-wicket stand between Oshada Fernando and Lahiru Thirimanne late on day three and promptly added the wicket of Dinesh Chandimal.
Nissanka, whose partnership with de Silva for the fifth wicket was worth 70 runs, has so far faced 161 deliveries and stroked five fours in a composed innings.
West Indies struggled to recapture the bowling discipline and consistency of the first innings as the runs flowed with increasing freedom for the Sri Lankan pair to the extent that 104 runs came off 25 overs, a stark contrast to the generally pedestrian rate of scoring in the first three days of the match.
Brief scores: Sri Lanka 169 (L. Thirimanne 70; J. Holder 5-27) and 359-5 (O. Fernando 91, L. Thirimanne 76, P. Nissanka 74 n.o.) v West Indies 271 (R. Cornwall 61; S. Lakmal 5-47)
Toss: West Indies
Match status: Sri Lanka lead by 257 runs with five second innings wickets in hand