Published : 12:03 am  July 21, 2018 | No comments so far |  | 


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Dimuth Karunaratne and Dhanushka Gunatileke both made half tons and put on an opening wicket stand of 116 runs



South Africa left arm spinner Keshav Maharaj struck in the last two sessions of play after Sri Lanka’s opening pair Dhanushka Gunatileke and Dimuth Karunaratne steadied the host sides’ innings in the first session of proceedings on Day One in the second Test match played at the SSC ground yesterday. Maharaj had a fair outing in the first Test match at Galle last week bagging four scalps in Sri Lanka’s second innings ended with much more success in this encounter as he ended up with a career best of eight wickets for 116 runs to restrict the Sri Lanka side for a score of 277 for nine.

DM-16-5The eight-wicket haul by Maharaj is the best bowling figures in Test matches by a bowler from a visiting team to Sri Lanka surpassing the seven wickets taken by Yasir Shah. The first session belonged to Sri Lanka with Dimuth Karunaratne continuing his batting form as he made another fine knock while Dhanushka Gunatileke too was in the runs as the pair had things under control after skipper Suranga Lakmal won the toss and opted to take first lease of the wicket. There was little benefit for the South African pace bowlers in the morning session as the Sri Lanka pair together carried the bat to a score of 93 without being separated and was on the verge of posting the first century since two years, before the lunch break was taken.

The post lunch session was going to be crucial for the two sides and in the process the Sri Lanka openers succeeded to achieve their 100-run partnership for the side which was the first since 2016 and also the first on home soil since 2010 with the last being between T.M. Dilshan and Tharanga Paranavithana against the West Indies in Galle. Karunaratne who was trailing Gunatileke, however became the first to reach the half ton that came in 96 balls which was the 16th of his Test career. Gunatileke followed when he too reached his half ton which was in fact his maiden that took him 93 balls. Meanwhile left armer Keshav Maharaj the only spinner included in the South Africa side who was economical with success in the morning session made the breakthrough for the visitors with the wicket of Karunaratne who nicked one to wicket keeper Quinton de Kock having made 53 runs in 110 balls with four boundaries and having added 116 runs.

Maharaj dealt another blow in his next over with the prized wicket of Gunatileke caught by Kagiso Rabada who took a tumbling but difficult catch at deep square leg as Sri Lanka lost two quick wickets within two overs and on 117 for two. Dhananjaya de Silva and Kusal Mendis playing with caution and accumulating their runs with ease saw Mendis who was the much more aggressive batsman going for a sweep, mistimed and only offered a simple catch to Rabada at midwicket. Mendis chipped in with 21 and Sri Lanka at that stage was on 153 for the loss of three wickets. Angelo Mathews joining de Silva saw the side through to the tea break but this session belonged to South Africa as through Maharaj they managed to restrict the hosts for 65 runs and succeeded in taking three wickets with Sri Lanka on 168 for three at the end of the second session.

Maharaj struck again as he grabbed the wicket of Mathews in the third ball of the first over in the last session who edged a simple catch to skipper du Plessis at first slip. The fall of this wicket saw the South Africa bowlers having the Sri Lanka batting under pressure and even if the pace bowlers had any success they were able to bog down the Sri Lanka batting while at the other end Maharaj was on fire. It was de Silva who was the only batsman to put in some resistance among the Sri Lanka batsmen as he made a patient 60 in 109 balls that included eight boundaries and associated in a valuable 54 runs for the fifth wicket with Roshen Silva.

Sri Lanka lost four quick wickets for the addition of 41 runs as they slid from a favourable position of 223 runs for the loss of five wickets to 264 for the loss of nine wickets, before Akila Dhananjaya and Rangana Herath held on till stumps for them to end the day on 277 for nine wickets. Pacie Dale Steyn who needs just one wicket to reach the milestone of becoming the highest South Africa wicket-taker was again unsuccessful having bowled 15 overs for 47 runs and going wicketless. The two sides made changes with hosts Sri Lanka bringing in Akila Dhananjaya in place of Lakshan Sandakan and South Africa having two changes with two surprise replacements, dropping Vernon Philander and Tabraiz Shamsi and bringing in Lungi Ngidi and Theunis de Bruyn.