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Dimuth Karunaratne

Karunaratne propels Sri Lanka to 287

SL v SA, 1st Test, day 1 report

Dimuth Karunaratne starred for hosts with his eighth Test century as South Africa bowled Sri Lanka out for 287 on the opening day of the first Test at Galle on Thursday 12 July.

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South Africa lost a wicket in the dying moments of the day to finish on 4/1, who trail Sri Lanka by 283 runs. Karunaratne finished unbeaten on 158 and carried his bat as two vital lower-order partnerships, including a last-wicket stand of 63 runs, helped Sri Lanka recover from 176/8. Kagiso Rabada picked up four wickets for the visitors while Tabraiz Shamsi claimed three. 

Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram walked out to negotiate a tricky 15-minute period and Rangana Herath, the experienced Sri Lanka spinner who recently revealed his retirement plans, dismissed Markram for zero in the third over of the innings to make it Sri Lanka's day on a turning wicket. Nightwatchman Keshav Maharaj (0*) and Elgar (4*) remained at stumps.

Earlier, Danushka Gunathilaka and Karunaratne gave the hosts a decent start after they won the toss and elected to bat on a surface that assisted spin. Gunathilaka and Karunaratne successfully countered South Africa’s new-ball attack of Vernon Philander and a returning Dale Steyn, who was playing his first international since early January, and added 44 runs for the first wicket before Rabada drew first blood by getting Gunathilaka caught behind for 26.

Kagiso Rabada was the most impressive of South Africa bowlers, picking up four wickets
Kagiso Rabada was the most impressive of South Africa bowlers, picking up four wickets

Dhananjaya de Silva, the Sri Lanka No.3, was the first victim of spin, bowled through the gate by Shamsi, with the left-arm wrist spinner who is playing his first red-ball Test and only the second of his career, reducing Sri Lanka to 70/2.

Kusal Mendis then combined with Karunaratne to add 45 runs for the third wicket, which turned out to be the third-best partnership of the innings, before Steyn, chasing Shaun Pollock’s record of most Test wickets for South Africa at 421, got Mendis to mistime his heave through the leg-side, as he lobbed a simple catch to Rabada at mid-on.

Steyn is now only one wicket away from equalling Pollock’s tally. Before this wicket, Mendis and Karunaratne had taken Sri Lanka to lunch at 96/2. Mendis also became the 18th Sri Lanka batsman to cross 2,000 Test runs. The hosts got to 100 shortly after lunch and Karunaratne got to 50 off 82 balls with five fours and a six.

Dale Steyn picked up a wicket on his return to Test cricket and moved within touching distance of Shaun Pollock's South Africa record
Dale Steyn picked up a wicket on his return to Test cricket and moved within touching distance of Shaun Pollock's South Africa record

Steyn walking off the field for a short while in the first session, owing to what seemed like a hamstring injury, forced captain Faf du Plessis to bring on Rabada for another spell in the second.

Rabada repaid the captain’s faith almost immediately by removing Angelo Mathews for one, getting him caught behind off a delivery that moved away from the right-hander outside off-stump, and then making Roshen Silva fend awkwardly at a rising delivery, thereby lobbing a sharp catch to Markram at short-leg. Sri Lanka were in trouble at 119/5.

Niroshan Dickwella, the wicket-keeper batsman, got lucky twice, surviving an on-field call and a review but wasn’t lucky the third time when he was caught by Hashim Amla at first slip, nicking off to Shamsi right at the cusp of a rain-break, which also forced an early tea interval with the score 161/6.

Dickwella had earlier been given out lbw off Rabada, but the decision was overturned on review. He survived the second time when a turning Shamsi delivery passed tantalisingly close to the batsman’s outside edge thereby prompting the South Africans to believe Dickwella had edged it. The visitors reviewed when the on-field umpire ruled it not out, only to discover daylight between bat and ball.

Dilruwan Perera was dismissed immediately after tea as Philander returned after a six-over spell earlier in the day, and got Perera caught behind off the first ball of his return. Three overs later, Herath was run out while going for a very risky second run to leave Sri Lanka in tatters at 176/8.

Rangana Herath dismissed Aiden Markram towards the end of the day
Rangana Herath dismissed Aiden Markram towards the end of the day

Captain Suranga Lakmal then gave Karunaratne, Sri Lanka’s lone warrior on the day, some much-needed company as the latter brought up his eighth Test century in his 50th Test, which included nine fours and one six. Lakmal and Karunaratne added 48 runs for the ninth wicket – the second-best partnership of the innings – before Rabada returned late in the day to bounce out Lakmal.

Lakshan Sandankan, Sri Lanka's No.11, then stayed by Karunaratne's side and helped add 63 runs for the last wicket, during which Karunaratne reached 150 off 214 balls. Sandakan was eventually dismissed late in the third session, stumped by wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock. 

Rabada was the best of the South Africa bowlers, as the No.1 bowler on the MRF Tyres ICC Test Rankings picked up 4/50. He found support in Shamsi (3/91), Steyn (1/54) and Philander (1/28), while Keshav Maharaj returned wicketless.

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