Dhaka, Bangladesh
Karunaratne headlines Sri Lanka's recovery

Karunaratne headlines Sri Lanka's recovery

Dimuth Karunaratne blended solid defence with enterprising shots to compile a brilliant unbeaten 158 as the hosts ended up with a competitive 287 versus South Africa at stumps on Day 1 of the opening Test in Galle. Rangana Herath followed up Karunaratne's noteworthy innings by dismissing Aiden Markram at the fag end of the day. Just to capsulise Karunaratne's impressive knock, he scored 55% of the runs accumulated by Sri Lanka. One of the features of his batting was the ability to play late and off the back foot. He also used nimble wrists to keep the scorecard ticking over. It was only when there was a loose ball on offer, he attempted to play shots versus spinners. He also showed his class and quality by adding 111 runs with Suranga Lakmal and Lakshan Sandakan, batting at No.10 and 11 respectively. Karunaratne also upped the ante with just the last man Sandakan left for company. He stepped away to crack Dale Steyn through covers in the 66th over. He also showed his mastery against spin by sweeping a conventional leg break from Shamsi that was turning away to the long on fence. Sandakan, too, joined in the fun, slog-sweeping Shamsi through the midwicket boundary. The pair soon stitched the fifty-run stand. By then, South Africa looked flat in the field. Eventually, Shamsi, one of South Africa's better bowlers on show, provided the finishing touches by removing Sandakan. Karunaratne, at the other end, became the 55th batsman to carry his bat through a completed innings in Tests. To make matters worse for the tourists, Herath got one to drift and turn as he forced Markram to edge it to the slip fielder. At close of play, South Africa were 4 for 1, still trailing by 283. In complete contrast to the final session, South Africa dominated the proceedings in the first two sessions. After Sri Lanka had opted to bat, Karunaratne and Danushka Gunathilaka (26) began on a good note. Gunathilaka gave a glimpse of his potential with a flick and punch off Vernon Philander in the seventh over. It forced Faf du Plessis to introduce his chief weapon, Rabada, who in turn made the initial incision. In his second over, he generated enough swing and movement off the seam to elicit the outside edge of Gunathilaka with Quinton de Kock pouching the catch. The spin duo of Keshav Maharaj and Shamsi joined forces with Rabada to trouble Karunaratne and the one-drop batsman Dhananjaya de Silva. It was Shamsi who landed the vital blow by cleaning up de Silva with his left-arm leg break. At that stage of Sri Lanka's innings, the hosts seemed to have a slight edge. However, Kagiso Rabada, the No.1 ranked Test match bowler, and Shamsi pulled things back impressively in the afternoon session by running through the cream of the middle order. Angelo Mathews, Roshen Silva and Niroshan Dickwella fell to the pair before early Tea was taken due to rain. Dale Steyn, the old warhorse, also chipped in by sending the dangerous Kusal Mendis back to the hut. The experienced pacer now needs just one more scalp to equal Shaun Pollock's record for the most number of wickets by a South African in Tests. Karunaratne's innings has put Sri Lanka in a strong position. South African batsmen need to show exemplary technique and temperament to counter the wiles of Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera and Lakshan Sandakan on a turning pitch. Brief scores: Sri Lanka 287 (Dimuth Karunaratne 158*; Kagiso Rabada 4-50) lead South Africa 4/1 (Rangana Herath 1-1) by 283 runs

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