Karunaratne stands tall against rampaging Rabada | Daily News
Becomes fourth Lankan to carry out his bat

Karunaratne stands tall against rampaging Rabada

Sri Lanka opener Dimuth Karunaratne celebrates his century with acting captain Suranga Lakmal as the non striker on the first day of the first Test against South Africa at the Galle International Stadium yesterday. Pictures by Saman Mendis
Sri Lanka opener Dimuth Karunaratne celebrates his century with acting captain Suranga Lakmal as the non striker on the first day of the first Test against South Africa at the Galle International Stadium yesterday. Pictures by Saman Mendis

GALLE: Opener Dimuth Karunaratne gave a sterling display of batting against one of the best bowling attacks in contemporary cricket to fashion out his eighth Test century to breathe some life into the Sri Lankan innings that was destroyed by the exceptional pace of the world’s no. 1 ranked Test bowler Kagiso Rabada.

Playing in his 50th Test for his country Karunaratne carried his bat out for a brilliant innings of 158 in Sri Lanka’s first innings total of 287 putting to shame the rest of the batting with his defiant innings on a first day pitch that offered very little for the bowlers.

By stumps Sri Lanka had grabbed the wicket of opener Aiden Markram for a duck as South Africa finished on four for one wicket.

Against South Africa’s varied pace and spin attack the batsmen’s technique against genuine fast bowling was tested to the limit and only Karunaratne came off with flying colours. He was equally adept against the pace of Philander, Steyn and Rabada and the left-arm spin of Shamsi and Maharaj playing them with caution mixed with moments of aggression that saw him reach the boundary on 13 occasions and one over it. The next highest score in the Lankan innings was 26 by Karunaratne’s opening partner Danushka Gunathilaka.

Karunaratne was fortunate that at 57 he was missed at short leg by Markram off Shamsi when Sri Lanka were 119-3. He rode his luck to complete his first Test century against South Africa off 159 balls with his ninth four off Shamsi.

At one time it looked like Karunaratne would run out of partners when Sri Lanka slid to 176-8 and he was seven shy of the milestone. However he found an able ally in acting captain Suranga Lakmal who hung around for 51 minutes for 10 runs. Lakmal helped Karunaratne to his hundred and stayed long enough to stitch together a useful partnership of 48 off 73 balls.

More frustration was to follow for the Proteas when last man Lakshan Sandakan defied their bowlers for 75 minutes helping Karunaratne add a further 63 off 98 balls to establish a new tenth wicket record for the series.

Karunaratne’s monumental knock lasted 365 minutes and he faced 222 balls and became only the fourth Sri Lankan opener to carry his bat out in a Test innings after Sidath Wettimuny (63 n.o. v New Zealand, Christchurch, 1983), Marvan Atapattu (216 n.o. v Zimbabwe, Bulawayo, 1999) and Russel Arnold (104 n.o. v Zimbabwe, Harare, 1999).

Winning the toss and taking first lease of a dry pitch Sri Lanka anchored by Karunaratne’s innings were comfortably placed at 115-2. But the dismissal of Kusal Mendis for 24 by Dale Steyn who retired soon after into the vicinity of the dressing room for a short break saw Rabada being brought onto replace him.

That move proved to be futile for Sri Lanka as the world’s fastest bowler sent back both Angelo Mathews (1) and Roshen Silva (0) within the space of three balls to reduce Sri Lanka to 119-5.

Niroshan Dickwella survived a confident lbw appeal against Rabada at one and successfully challenged the umpire’s decision when replays showed the ball pitching outside leg stump.

Dickwella also survived a caught behind appeal off spinner Tabraiz Shamsi which South Africa challenged and lost when replays showed the ball beating his outside edge by a distance. But the Lankan wicket-keeper failed to capitalise on these chances when Shamsi finally foxed him into edging a catch to Amla at slip shortly before the rains came down to force an early tea.

On resumption Dilruwan Perera and Rangana Herath both departed cheaply reducing Sri Lanka to 176-8 before the last two wickets added 111 runs to see Sri Lanka to a decent total of 287.

Rabada’s four-over third spell yielded two wickets for 10 runs and having initiated the early breakthrough in the morning he picked up the wicket of Lakmal to finish with figures of four for 50.

Sri Lanka were off to a flying start in terms of a five-day Test match when their left-handed opening pair Danushka Gunathilaka and Karunaratne posted 44 off 64 balls against Philander and Steyn who shared the new ball.

It took the first change brought about by South African skipper Faf du Plessis to affect the initial breakthrough when Rabada forced the aggressive Gunathilaka to edge a catch to de Kock with his score on 26.

South Africa could have had the wicket of Gunathilaka as early as the fifth ball of the innings when he attempted to flick Philander down the leg side and got a faint edge but the umpire turned down the appeal. The Proteas didn’t go for a review either. However ultra edge later confirmed that Gunathilaka had in fact edged the ball.

Dhananjaya de Silva who replaced him didn’t last long, for after spending 45 minutes for 11 he drove all over a flighted delivery from Tabraiz Shamsi who bowls left-arm chinaman and had his stumps disturbed.

Kusal Mendis batted serenely for 24 without any trouble when he was forced into a false shot as the ball from Steyn stopped on him and it resulted in him popping a simple catch to mid-on. His dismissal saw the Sri Lanka middle order crumble as they lost four wickets for 46 in the afternoon session. 



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