Published : 10:17 am  July 29, 2016 | No comments so far |  |  (747) reads | 


BY M. SHAMIL AMIT REPORTING FROM PALLEKELE Kusal Mendis in a heroic batting effort dug Sri Lanka out of danger and into Untitled-2safety at least for the time being as play came to a halt at 4.00 p.m. due to bad light on day three of the first Test match between Sri Lanka and Australia played at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium. The diminutive stroke-maker who came into the crease when Sri Lanka was precariously placed at 6 for 2 having resumed their second innings from their overnight score of 6 for 1 remained unbeaten on 169 from 243 balls which comprised 20 boundaries and a six and with the Sri Lanka score on 282 for 6 at the stoppage. Sri Lanka struggled early on which saw the Aussies grabbing three wickets in the morning session.

The first came in the third ball of the first over of the day with left arm pacie Mitchell Starc dismissing Dimuth Karunaratne before he opened his account. Kusal Mendis joining Kaushal Silva put up some resistance and began accumulating runs patiently but Silva found runs hard to come while in contrast Mendis accumulated runs by with confidence. The brief stand of 32 runs for the third wicket came to an end with left arm spinner Steve O’ Keefe taking the scalp of Silva. Skipper Angelo Mathews who walked into the crease made steady progress with Mendis and posted Sri Lanka’s 50. Mendis in the process raced to his half ton with a single off O’Keefe’s delivery which came off 67 balls and comprised eight boundaries. Mendis was batting with growing confidence as he cracked boundaries off the two spinners O’ Keefe and Lyon. The expectation was that Mathews would open up and put pressure on the Aussie bowlers but Mathews played a sedate knock. With Sri Lanka’s score on 85 for 3 Mathews survived an appeal which was reviewed by Australian skipper Steven Smith but he did not last long as Joe Burns at short leg clung on to a sharp catch off Lyon’s bowling for a score of nine, at that stage Sri Lanka were in deep trouble on 86 for 4 with Mendis having scored 64 of the runs.

Dinesh Chandimal joining Mendis batted cautiously to put up Sri Lanka’s 100 runs on the board with Mendis cracking a boundary off O’Keefe. Later Mendis slammed successive boundaries off David Warner while Chandimal was piling up his runs through singles and twos as they went into the lunch break on 116 for 4 with Mendis on 86, Chandimal seven. Mendis in fact dominated the three partnerships in which he was involved, contributing 34 of the 39 runs with Silva, 31 of the 41 runs with Mathews and 22 of the 30 with Chandimal. After the lunch break Mendis played his usual composed game picking up his runs with ease with the occasional boundary, while Chandimal hit his first boundary after facing 42 balls. Mendis was nearing his maiden ton and what a way he did it by smashing a six over deep midwicket off the Aussie spinner Lyon. Australian skipper Smith with limited options brought himself in as the eighth bowler. Chandimal was lucky to survive a return catch grassed by Mitchell Starc on 24 as he took the advantage and cracked two boundaries off Starc in the same over.

The pair went on to post their 100 – run partnership for the fifth wicket before Chandimal was trapped by Marsh eight runs short of his half ton with the partnership bringing 117 runs. Dhananjaya de Silva who came into the crease proved to be a reliable partner for Mendis. He began in almost the same style as in the first innings, slamming a boundary in the very first ball he faced off Marsh. The pair unlike in the first innings had little pressure from the Australian bowlers even though Mendis was given a life when he was on 142 with Josh Hazelwood missing a return catch.

Before the tea break they had added 50 runs after Mendis had reached his 150 runs with a boundary off Lyon and then went into the tea break on 253 for 6. Later Lyon made a much needed breakthrough dismissing de Silva who made 36. Lyon’s wicket of de Silva was his 200th Test wicket. Dilruwan Perera with Mendis was able to negotiate only 2.5 overs as fading light forced the players back to the pavilion at 4.00 p.m. and the umpires called off the match at 4.55 p.m.