Openers give Sri Lanka a sniff of victory in first Test | Sunday Observer

Openers give Sri Lanka a sniff of victory in first Test

Dimuth Karunaratne sweeps a ball during his unbeaten innings of 71 on the fourth day of the first cricket Test against New Zealand in Galle
Dimuth Karunaratne sweeps a ball during his unbeaten innings of 71 on the fourth day of the first cricket Test against New Zealand in Galle

Sri Lanka openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Lahiru Thirimanne shared a record unbroken century partnership of 133 to put their team in a position from which they could push for a win over New Zealand in the first cricket Test at the Galle International Cricket Stadium yesterday.

Chasing a target of 268, Sri Lanka were nearly halfway there with all their second innings wickets intact ending the fourth day at 133 for no loss with Karunaratne having played a captain’s knock of 71 not out off 168 balls (2 fours) and his partner Lahiru Thirimanne 57 not out off 132 balls with four fours.

Their partnership is the highest ever in the fourth innings for Sri Lanka surpassing the 124 by Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva against Pakistan at Dubai in 2014.

Karunaratne of course was lucky to be still batting having survived two chances at 58 to Tom Latham at short leg and a stumping to BJ Watling. New Zealand who had a difficult one-and-a-half sessions on the field may rue those missed chances should Karunaratne carry his team to victory on the fifth and final day today.

The openers set about their task in an unhurried manner taking their own time and playing risk-free cricket so that the first boundary of the innings was not scored until the 22nd over when Karunaratne square cut off-spinner William Somerville.

Thirimanne on the other hand silenced his detractors who were calling for his head. Full credit should go to the selection committee headed by Ashantha de Mel for keeping faith and persisting with him for the Test.

Knowing the nature of the contest in the three completed innings so far where the fall of one wicket has led to a cluster of wickets falling, it was imperative that both Karunaratne and Thirimanne utilised the crease for as long as possible and got their team as close to the target.

This they have done magnificently so far blunting the New Zealand bowlers’ attempts to make a breakthrough. Sri Lanka however are still not out of the woods yet for they require a further 135 runs on a wearing pitch that has slowed down and they also have to contend with the fickle weather that delayed the start yesterday by 50 minutes.

“If you see the pattern of the game when one is set they scored, whether it was a batsman or a tail-ender whoever it may be.

That pattern continued even today. After New Zealand lost six wickets for 124 they put on another 161 runs for the last four wickets,” said interim head coach Rumesh Ratnayake.

New Zealand proved yesterday that there are many reasons why their Test side has been the top nation in the past couple of years because there was contribution from everyone.

The manner in which they fought back from 124-6 to put up a second innings total 285 showed they had more fighting spirit than individual players from other Test playing nations because they simply don’t stand down.

Yesterday although they lost BJ Watling within the first hour of play for a determined 77 scored off 173 balls (6 fours), William Somerville their number nine stuck it out for 118 balls to make a career best 40 not out and in the process built up useful partnerships that saw New Zealand to their final total.

Lasith Embuldeniya failed to add to his four wickets taken on the previous day, but Lahiru Kumara with the second new ball captured the key wicket of Watling and of Boult, leaving Dhananjaya de Silva to finish off the innings trapping Patel lbw to end with three wickets.

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