Sri Lanka ahead on ab­sorb­ing first day

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport -

IT took Upul Tha­ranga mul­ti­ple stints and close to 11 years after his first Test cen­tury to bring up his sec­ond.

A week on, he looked set to add to that tally. He had pro­gressed serenely to 79 dur­ing the course of a 143-run fifth-wicket stand with Dhanan­jaya De Silva and re­vived Sri Lanka after a top or­der wob­ble, be­fore fad­ing light brought about a slightly more cir­cum­spect ap­proach that may have con­trib­uted to his dis­missal. At the other end, Dhanan­jaya calmly waded through the 90s to bring up his sec­ond Test cen­tury as Sri Lanka nudged ahead on a see-saw open­ing day, end­ing it 290 for 5.

Things could have been much bet­ter for Zim­babwe had they fielded and caught bet­ter. In the penul­ti­mate over of the day, Brian Chari’s un­der­arm flick at the bowler’s end missed the stumps and re­prieved Asela Gu­naratne, who was on 10. Be­fore that came a costlier miss, Peter Moor fluff­ing a chance down the leg side off Graeme Cre­mer to let Dhanan­jaya off on 64. That was the only un­cer­tain mo­ment in Dhanan­jaya’s in­nings, which show­cased his abil­ity to tai­lor his tac­tics to Sri Lanka’s sit­u­a­tion.

Happy to hit through the line against the seam­ers, he elim­i­nated drives against Cre­mer’s legspin as the day wore on. That wasn’t to say he was com­pletely guarded, for the bad balls were pun­ished, at times with a touch of dis­dain.

If Tha­ranga was an ac­cu­mu­la­tor, Dhanan­jaya was the artist dur­ing the course of Sri Lanka’s high­est fifth­wicket stand against Zim­babwe — they sur­passed the pre­vi­ous best of 114 be­tween Asanka Gu­rus­inha and Hashan Til­lakaratne at Sin­halese Sports Club (Colombo) in 1996. The pair bat­ted through 50.3 overs on a sur­face that of­fered plenty of lat­eral move­ment.

As the day pro­gressed, there was even a hint of turn and in­con­sis­tent bounce, which fur­ther un­der­lined the im­por­tance of the part­ner­ship. Dhanan­jaya, who walked in to bat with Sri Lanka 112 for 4, hit 11 fours and was bat­ting on 100 at stumps.

Zim­babwe, who were on the wrong side of sev­eral de­ci­sions in the first Test, were ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the De­ci­sion Review Sys­tem that was in­tro­duced for the first time in the coun­try. Tha­ranga, ini­tially given not out by um­pire Si­mon Fry, had to walk back when re­plays sug­gested he had nicked the ball while driv­ing away from his body at Cre­mer, be­fore the ball bounced to slip off the wick­et­keeper’s pads.

Zim­babwe’s re­lief was pal­pa­ble, and con­tin­ued to at­tack with the seam­ers, tak­ing the sec­ond new ball as soon as it be­came avail­able, but Dhanan­jaya and Gu­naratne saw out the rest of the day’s play.

Choos­ing to bowl first, Zim­babwe were dealt an early blow when Carl Mumba, one of their three front­line seam­ers, left the field with knee trou­ble after bowl­ing his first over. His ab­sence, cou­pled with the way­ward­ness of Christo­pher Mpofu, helped Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva to rat­tle off 60 in the first hour.

Hamil­ton Masakadza led Zim­babwe’s re­vival with his part-time seam after be­ing sum­moned up to give Mpofu and Don­ald Tiri­pano a breather. It took him just 10 balls to break the 62-run open­ing stand, Dimuth Karunarate glid­ing an away-go­ing de­liv­ery into the hands of Sean Wil­liams at gully. In Masakadza’s next over, Kusal Per­era swiped a full-length de­liv­ery to Mumba at long-on.

The pres­sure Zim­babwe main­tained thereon played a part in their next break­through, Mpofu trap­ping Kaushal Silva lbw with an in-dip­per in the penul­ti­mate over be­fore lunch. It was a dra­matic dis­missal. Given out by um­pire Fry, Kaushal was de­nied a review by his own in­de­ci­sion — he took more than the pre­scribed 15 sec­onds be­fore ask­ing for it. Re­plays sug­gested Zim­babwe were lucky, with ball-track­ing show­ing the an­gle tak­ing the ball past leg stump.

Two overs after lunch, Sri Lanka lost Kusal Mendis and were a pre­car­i­ous 112 for 4. Tha­ranga, who walked in at No 5, laced the first two balls he faced to the cover bound­ary and glanced his fourth ball for an­other four. Hav­ing got­ten off to that tur­bocharged start, he pro­gressed steadily. Early in his in­nings, Dhanan­jaya marked his ar­rival, split­ting mid­wicket and mid-on with a whiplash flick off Mpofu. That was just one of sev­eral moments of class in his ef­fort to lead Sri Lanka’s re­vival. — ESPNCricinfo

Sri Lanka’s Upul Tha­ranga eases the ball through the off side en route his sixth Test fifty in Harare yes­ter­day. Pic: ESPNCricInfo

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