Tea Sri Lanka 504 (Dhananjaya de Silva 127, Gunaratne 116, Tiripano 3-91) v Zimbabwe
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Asela Gunaratne brought up his maiden ton © AFP
Asela Gunaratne, who serenely progressed to 91, was left with the unenviable task of marshalling No. 11 Lahiru Kumara, who made a golden duck on debut last week, in his quest to get to a maiden Test ton. And he did so, with some luck – Kumara dead batted the fast bowlers for over a dozen deliveries – to bring him back on strike. He brought up the landmark with a loft that just about eluded mid-off, and then threw his arms up to acknowledge the applause of his team mates in the change room.
In the context of the match, it was a significant knock considering he came in to bat with Sri Lanka not entirely out of the woods at 255 for 5. By following-up his debut half-century with a century, he may have given the team management a healthy selection dilemma for the Test series in South Africa next month. His 116 was studded with authority, and helped haul Sri Lanka to 504 before the innings came to a halt 25 minutes before the scheduled tea interval on the second day.
With the burden of an impending landmark out of the way, he clobbered the next ball over the bowler’s head for six, signaling his intent to pocket as many runs as possible. It was also a welcome release, considering he had been stranded in the 90s for 26 deliveries. Kumara, at the other end, continued to keep out away-going deliveries, thereby adding to Zimbabwe’s frustration in a last-wicket stand of 33.
Prior to that, Sri Lanka, resuming the second session on 414 for 7, were powered by Rangana Herath’s uncharacteristic cameo – laced with unorthodox sweeps and audacious pulls – that fetched him 27, before a slash to a full delivery from Donald Tiripano resulted in a thin edge through to the wicketkeeper. Tiripano then sent the off stump cartwheeling with a delivery that kept low, two balls later, to remove Sunranga Lakmal.
Zimbabwe were left to rue their missed opportunities, none more important than the reprieve of Dhananjaya de Silva. Let off on 64 through wicketkeeper Peter Moor’s leg-side fumble, the middle-order batsman went on to record his second Test century. He eventually fell to Graeme Cremer, the Zimbabwe captain, in the first session when he chipped a return catch.
Dhananjaya’s wicket, however, lifted Sri Lanka’s scoring rate as Dilruwan Perera chanced himself to make 34. He was particularly aggressive on Cremer, cutting and pulling deliveries that were short, while also bringing out his delicate dabs to score behind square on the off side. He was eventually dismissed 15 minutes before lunch by a flipper from Cremer himself.
With the responsibility of having to maneuver the tail, Gunaratne, reprieved courtesy a missed run-out opportunity late last evening, took the calculated risks which eventually paid off as Sri Lanka hauled themselves to a position of strength after being reduced to 112 for 4 at one stage.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo