Sa’adi Thawfeeq reporting from Pallekele
PALLEKELE: Dimuth Karunaratne fought a lone battle against the wiles of leg-spinner Yasir Shah who threatened to run through the Sri Lankan batting line-up on the opening day of the third and final cricket Test against Pakistan at the Pallekele International Stadium on Friday.
Karunaratne battled hard on the face of the threat posed by Yasir to score his second Test hundred that kept Sri Lanka from sinking completely after they had been invited to bat first by Misbah-ul-Haq.
Last December, Karunaratne’s maiden Test hundred (152) against New Zealand at Christchurch won him a place in the Sri Lanka World Cup squad, but it was not good enough to save them from defeat.
In this series decider his presence in the middle was vital for Sri Lanka to come up with a reasonably competitive total especially with the fast outfield.
Sri Lanka ended day one at 272 for eight wickets with Tharindu Kaushal on 17 and Suranga Lakmal on one.
If not for Karunaratne’s well-paced century – the first by a Sri Lankan at Pallekele, the innings would have fallen through. His 348-minute knock for 130 (14 fours) deprived Pakistan from completely demolishing the innings. The only blemish if it can be termed that was surviving a confident leg before appeal at 12 against Imran Khan, a review which Pakistan lost.
There were only two noteworthy partnerships in the innings involving Karunaratne. Upul Tharanga who took Kumar Sangakkara’s position at three played well for his 46 before becoming the first of Yasir’s four victims for the day.
The other was also with a left-hander Jehan Mubarak. Making a comeback to Test cricket after eight years Mubarak stuck to his guns to put together 67 runs for the fifth wicket after Sri Lanka had lost three wickets for 31 runs in a mid-afternoon collapse. Mubarak’s share was 25.
Yasir, the only spinner picked by Pakistan for this Test was always probing and a threat to the opposition with his mixture of leg-breaks and googlies.
After Rahat Ali had initiated the breakthrough by getting the wicket of Kaushal Silva for nine, it was all Yasir for the rest of the day, until part-time spinner Azhar Ali came into the act later in the day.
Sri Lanka only made it easy for Yasir when Lahiru Thirimanne and Angelo Mathews both perished playing irresponsible shots. The wicket of Thirimanne made Yasir the leading wicket-taker in a series against Sri Lanka surpassing another spinner Saeed Ajmal’s tally of 18 wickets obtained in 2011. By the end of the day his tally for the series stood at 21.
Azhar broke a promising stand of 44 between Karunaratne and Chandimal and was on a hat-trick when he also had Dhammika Prasad caught at backward square leg for a first ball duck.
Each time Sri Lanka had looked like building up a big partnership Pakistan have managed to break through with telling effect.
Rahat ended a fine day for Pakistan by dismissing the last of the recognized batsman Dinesh Chandimal shortly before the close by trapping him lbw for 24 with the second new ball. Despite the common view held here that Pallekele produces result-oriented pitches – the three Tests that have been played have all ended in draws, the weather being a factor in two of them. This Test if the weather holds good is certainly heading for a result with one innings nearly over by the end of the first day.