Honours even thanks to Dimuth’s brilliance


Dimuth Karunaratne (R) raises his bat in celebration after scoring a century as Suranga Lakmal looks on during the first day of the opening Test match between Sri Lanka and South Africa at Galle yesterday. (Lakruwan Wanniarachchi / AFP)

Rex Clementine
reporting from Galle

Opening batsman Dimuth Karunaratne made a remarkable return to Test cricket posting an unbeaten 158 in the first Test against South Africa here in Galle. Dimuth’s outstanding effort was a cut above the rest as he fought a lone battle to give his side a decent total.

In the process, he became the fourth Sri Lankan to carry his bat through joining Sidath Wettimuny, Marvan Atapattu and Russel Arnold. Sri Lanka were bowled out for 287 and in the four overs South Africa faced before stumps on day one, veteran Rangana Herath dismissed Aiden Markram to leave the Proteas on four for one.

At 176 for eight, Sri Lanka could have been bowled out for less than 200 runs. But two face-saving partnerships for the last two wickets helped them to even things out. Dimuth added 48 runs with stand-in skipper Suranga Lakmal (10) for the ninth wicket and then followed the best partnership of the innings – 63 for the last wicket between Dimuth and Lakshan Sandakan (25). It was Sandakan’s career-best score and the partnership is a new record in Tests between Sri Lanka and South Africa.

Sri Lanka were looking good reaching 93 for two when play was stopped for lunch. There was an intense battle between Dimuth and Dale Steyn, both players making their comebacks from injury. Steyn, who started the game needing three wickets to overtake Shaun Pollock’s South African record of 421 wickets, peppered Dimuth with short-pitched deliveries and the left-hander pulled one for six bisecting the long-leg and deep square leg fielders.

Steyn dismissed Kusal Mendis after lunch for 24 but the real damage was done by Kagiso Rabada, who replaced Steyn from the Dutch Fort End. In his third spell, Rabada dismissed Angelo Mathews and Roshen Silva in the space of first three deliveries as Sri Lanka slumped from 115 for two to 119 for five.

Rabada finished with four wickets while Shamsi claimed three wickets.

The 30-year-old Dimuth reached his eighth Test hundred with a nicely driven boundary off wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi.

With Dimuth putting up a fine rearguard action with the tail, the South African field spread and the hosts could pick easy singles.

Despite playing seven specialist batsmen, Sri Lanka failed to put up a commanding total. After Dimuth’s 158, the next highest score in the Sri Lankan innings was Danushka Gunathilaka’s 26.

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