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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Karunarante century sets up Sri Lanka against Pakistan on Day 1 in Dubai

Left-handed opener missed out on triple figures in Abu Dhabi last week but made no mistake this time round.

Dimuth Karunaratne of Sri Lanka celebrate after reaching his century during day one of the Second Test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in Dubai (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)
Dimuth Karunaratne of Sri Lanka celebrate after reaching his century during day one of the Second Test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in Dubai (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

Dimuth Karunarante succeeded where he only just failed last week, as he scored a century for Sri Lanka on Day 1 of the second Test against Pakistan in Dubai.

The left-handed opener fell seven short of three figures as Sri Lanka clinched a 1-0 lead in the series after a 21-run win in Abu Dhabi in the first game.

He made no mistake this time round, as boundaries in successive balls off Mohammed Amir brought him his seventh Test century, and second against Pakistan.

Karunaratne was not out on 133 at the close, as Sri Lanka ended the day on 254-3.

It was a formidable start for the away side, as they try to close in on a result that would inflict a first ever series defeat on Pakistan in Tests in the UAE.

Last week, a mix up between Karunaratne and Dinesh Chandimal, his captain, had led to the former being run out within sight of his century.

There was no such woe this time around. They shared a second successive century stand, and the fact Chandimal was also there undefeated at the close adds further to Sri Lanka’s prospects of forcing a historic win.

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It had seemed for a while as though all of Sri Lanka’s senior batsmen were going to have their collective thunder stolen by a 22-year-old making his debut.

Sadeera Samarawickrama did briefly manage to catch the eye in the opening Test in Abu Dhabi, due to his athleticism as a fielding substitute.

Three days later, he was given his first cap, after Lahiru Thirimanne failed to recover from a back injury in time to take up his place in the side.

Samarawickrama might not be especially well known beyond his own shores, but Sri Lankan cricket has long been excited about a former schoolboy star.

He did not take long to impress at the very top level, in a sparkling cameo worth 38 from 35 balls.

That effort casually included three fours and a gloriously languid six off Yasir Shah, the legspinner who is regarded as the best slow bowler in the world by many observers.

He was cut off in his prime, though, when he tried to whip a back-of-a-length delivery from Mohammed Amir through midwicket, only to chip a leading edge back to the bowler.

All of Sri Lanka’s good work at the top of the order appeared to be unravelling when Kusal Mendis fell limply to Yasir almost immediately after.

However, Chandimal and Karunaratne are well practiced at rescuing their side from mini crises.

The duo laid the platform for the win in Abu Dhabi when they put on exactly 100 for the fourth wicket in the first innings, after being joined together at the crease when their side were 61 for three.

This time around the scoreboard read 136 for three when they were reunited, after the Sri Lankans had made a confident start to their first pink-ball, day-night Test.

Their alliance at the Dubai International Stadium has been worth 118 so far.

Pakistan’s bowlers looked wearied by their hefty workload in 40 degree heat in Abu Dhabi, just three days earlier.

Back to back Test matches is a tough assignments for quick bowlers like Amir and Mohammed Abbas, while Yasir himself sent down 84 overs at the Zayed Cricket Stadium.

He was some way short of his best on the opening day in Dubai, but still had the wickets of Kaushal Silva and Mendis to show for his toils.

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Day 1, Dubai Test: At a glance

Moment of the day Sadeera Samarawickrama set pulses racing with his strokeplay on his introduction to Test cricket. It reached a feverish peak when he stepped down the wicket and launched Yasir Shah, who many regard as the world’s leading spinner, back over his head for six. No matter that he was out soon after: it felt as though the future had arrived.

Stat of the day - 5 The last time Sri Lanka played a Test in Dubai – they won here in 2013 – they had four players in their XI who were known as wicketkeepers. This time they have gone one better. Each of Dinesh Chandimal, Kaushal Silva, Samarawickrama, Kusal Mendis, and Niroshan Dickwella – the nominated gloveman here – can keep wicket.

The verdict Sri Lanka want to make history by becoming the first team to beat Pakistan in a full Test series in the UAE. They could not have made a better start, first by winning the toss, then by scoring freely on an easy-paced pitch. The fact Yasir Shah found some turn on Day 1, too, will have interested their own spin bowlers.