Karunaratne, Chandimal lead Sri Lanka fightback against Pakistan in 1st Test
ABU DHABI – It was a slow and uneventful Thursday at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium with Sri Lanka riding on Dimuth Karunaratne’s sedate 93 and Dinesh Chandimal’s unbeaten 60 to 227 for 4 against Pakistan on the opening day of the first Test.
With the exception of Karunaratne, who was run out, the other three Sri Lanka batsmen will be kicking themselves for missing out on a big score on a placid pitch.
Yasir Shah was the pick of the bowlers with 2 for 59 and though he did get the ball to spin late in the day, by then Karunaratne and Chandimal had settled down to put on 100 runs together.
Niroshan Dickwella was unbeaten on 42, having added 66 runs for the unbroken fifth-wicket stand alongside Chandimal, the captain.
So obdurate was the fourth-wicket stand that Pakistan needed a stroke of luck and a bit of help from Chandimal to end Karunaratne’s stay at the crease, which lasted four hours and 40 minutes. The left-hander dashed off for a single but his skipper was watching the ball rather than his partner, depriving him of a well deserved seventh Test hundred. It could have been his second in consecutive Tests against Pakistan, having notched one in Pallekele in 2015.
Pakistan went in with three seamers and only one frontline spinner in Yasir while Sri Lanka took a different approach, going with three spinners — Lakshan Sandakan and Dilruwan Perera partnering Rangana Herath — and two seamers. Haris Sohail was also handed a debut, becoming Pakistan’s 229th player in Tests.
Chandimal had lost the toss in all three previous Tests as captain, but won this time around and instantly decided to bat first, reading the pitch correctly.
Sri Lanka’s start was cautious with only one boundary in the first hour with Kaushal Silva edging Hasan Ali through the slips. While Mohammad Amir drifted down leg, Mohammad Abbas kept bowling outside the off stump.
The layer of grass on the pitch was deceptive as it neither helped the seamers or the spinners. The first hour went to Sri Lanka’s openers but once the energetic Hasan was introduced, the momentum shifted. Hasan bowled Silva for 12 as the batsman played on to an inswinging delivery.
Lahiru Thirimanne and Kusal Mendis had only themselves to blame rather than any extraordinary bowling for their dismissals too — both misreading Yasir Shah’s leg-breaks. Thirimanne, playing his first Test since June last year, was adjudged leg before while Mendis tried to cut but was caught behind.
The wicket of Thirimanne was Yasir’s 150th Test wicket, matching fellow countryman Waqar Younis as the joint second fastest to 150 wickets — both achieving the milestone in their 27th Test. Australia’s Sydney Barnes holds the record after reaching the landmark in just 24 Tests.
From 61 for 3, Sri Lanka staged a recovery before bad luck struck to end Karunaratne’s innings.
It will depend on Chandimal and Dilruwan Perera, as well as the tail, to add some runs now to put pressure on Pakistan, who will be playing its first Test without Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq.