Karunarathne’s lone-fight helped to boost Sri Lanka’s confidence……..
Sri Lanka have a slight edge going into Day Two having put up 287 on the board and picked up an early South African wicket. They have one man to thank for getting them into such a good position and that is their opener Dimuth Karunaratne. Karunaratne returned to Sri Lanka’s Test squad after missing the West Indies tour due to an injury. He immediately got into the groove, scoring a valiant 158 not out to ensure Sri Lanka put up a respectable total on the board. It looked as though Karunaratne did not miss a beat and showed no sign of rustiness throughout his innings. Karunaratne had a couple of close calls, but in the end, he persevered and helped himself to his eighth Test ton.
Karnaratne showed exactly what Sri Lanka missed in the Caribbean – A good head over his shoulders, terrific temperament and also the hunger to score big. With wickets tumbling around him, he too could have thrown his bat at everything and given away his wicket. But he decided to stick around and steer his team into a good position. Sri Lanka are without their captain Dinesh Chandimal in this match as well. They needed someone who could take charge with the bat and stick around for as long as possible.
From 115-2, Sri Lanka were reduced to 224-9 in less than 20 overs and it looked as though it was just a matter of time before they folded. However, No. 11 batsman Lakshan Sandakan, who we felt was going to do damage only with the ball, provided Karunaratne with some support and added a crucial 63 runs for the final wicket, which gave Sri Lanka some momentum going into the break. Rangana Herath gave the hosts more reasons to celebrate as he dismissed Aiden Markram for a duck early on.
With runs on the board and an early wicket, Sri Lanka will be happy with their day’s work, but they surely would have wanted other batsmen at least to get a fifty. A score of 350 in such pitches will look huge once the ball starts to spin viciously as the match progresses.
Coming back to Karunaratne, he has an excellent 2017, where he was one of six batsmen to score over 1,000 runs that year. And now, he is off to a superb start in his first match of 2018 as well. He is just carrying on from where he left off previous year and if he keeps going like this, he will no doubt be a huge asset at the top. It is no secret that Sri Lanka are having troubles finding the right combination. Injuries and suspensions have in the recent past hampered their combination. Therefore, it is pleasing to see someone who could walk into the side and help himself with a century. His knock without a doubt would have given his teammates a huge boost. With Chandimal’s return imminent and Angelo Mathews hopefully fully fit combined with a few good shows from Kusal Mendis and others, Sri Lanka can be a strong batting unit.
But consistency has eluded them over the last year or so and they just have not been good enough over a large period of time in Test cricket. They have shown the world glimpses of what they are capable of, but overall, they have been disappointing.
Karunaratne has played all over the world and against testing opponents. He has scored runs in tough conditions in New Zealand, and also in the UAE. Once set, he makes it count and does not throw away his wicket. He puts a price on his wicket and will take something special to get him out early. If the bowlers fail to get him out early, it is more or less certain that he will make them play, just like he did on Day One of the Galle Test. This was Karunaratne’s first century against South Africa and his team will hope that he continues to shine brightly in the remainder of the series and the season.
Sri Lanka have England visiting in October this year after South Africa. They will hope that their players continue to work hard and step up when the team requires. A home loss to either South Africa or England that too at home will be a huge dent in their pursuit to become a powerful Test nation.