Stumps Sri Lanka 290 for 5 (Dhananjaya 100*, Gunaratne 13, Masakadza 2-18) v Zimbabwe
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Dhananjaya de Silva’s 143-run stand with Upul Tharanga helped Sri Lanka fight back © Getty Images
It took Upul Tharanga multiple stints and close to 11 years after his first Test century to bring up his second ton. A week on, he looked set to add to that tally. He had serenely progressed to 79 during the course of a 143-run fifth-wicket stand with Dhananjaya De Silva to revive Sri Lanka from a top order wobble, before fading light brought about a slightly more circumspect approach and led to his downfall. But that didn’t have any effect on Dhananjaya, who calmly waded through the 90s to bring up his second Test century as Sri Lanka nudged ahead on a see-saw opening day on 290 for 5.
Things could have been much better for Zimbabwe had they fielded and caught better. Dhananjaya was reprieved on 64 when Peter Moor, the wicketkeeper, fluffed an opportunity down the leg side off Cremer. Then in the penultimate over, Brian Chari’s underarm flick at the bowler’s end missed the stumps to reprieve Asela Gunaratne on 10. The reprieve, however, shouldn’t take sheen off Dhananjaya’s efforts though, for his tactics on the face of sustained pressure from Zimbabwe’s pacers in the second session underlined his situational awareness.
Happy to hit through the line against the seamers, his elimination of the drives against Cremer’s legspin as the day wore on was ample proof of his maturity. That isn’t to say he was completely guarded, for the bad balls were punished, at times with a touch of disdain, when the opportunities arose.
If Tharanga was an accumulator, Dhananjaya was the artist during the course of Sri Lanka’s highest fifth-wicket 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 out 50.3 overs to take the sting out of Zimbabwe’s attack on a surface that offered plenty of lateral movement.
As the day progressed, there was a hint of turn and inconsistent bounce, which further underlined the importance of the partnership that loosened Zimbabwe’s grip. Dhananjaya, who walked in to bat with Sri Lanka on 112 for 4, hit 10 fours and was unbeaten on 100.
During the course of the day, Zimbabwe, on the wrong side of several decisions alongside a slew of dropped catches in the first Test, were beneficiaries of the Decision Review System that was introduced for the first time in Zimbabwe. The decision to give Tharanga not out by umpire Simon Fry was overturned as replays suggested he had nicked the ball to the slip off the wicketkeeper’s pads.
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Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo