Off spinner Akila Dananjaya took all five New Zealand wickets with the visiting team on 203 for 5 wickets having elected to bat first on winning the toss in the rain marred opening day’s play of the first Test of the ICC World Test Championship with stumps drawn by tea at the Galle International Cricket Stadium yesterday. Dananjaya, a significant world cup discard, who came back strongly among the wickets in Sri Lanka’s recent ODI whitewash of Bangladesh, once again proved to the national selectors that he is the top specialist spinner in the business as he reduced New Zealand from 64 for no loss to 64 for 2 and 71 for 3, finishing with 5 for 57.
New Zealand was hauled out of trouble by Ross Taylor who made a fluent unbeaten 86 off 131 balls inclusive of 6 boundaries. He was associated in a 100-run fourth wicket alliance with Henry Nicholls who made 42 off 78 balls inclusive of 2 boundaries before becoming Dananjaya’s fourth victim when he was trapped leg before wicket. Dananjaya struck two overs later also trapping B.J. Watling leg before wicket for 1 reducing New Zealand to 179 for 5, but Taylor remained firm taking his side past the 200 mark with M.J. Santner on 8 off 21 balls.
The Kiwis were indebted to Taylor who put his side back in the game after Dananjaya had sent back Tom Latham for 30 caught behind by Niroshan Dickwella and skipper Kane Williamson for a duck three balls later well held by his counterpart Dimuth Karunaratne as New Zealand was reduced from 64 for 2 after 27 overs to 71 for 3 after 30. Dananjaya continued to brew trouble for the visitors when he ended the stubborn resistance by opener Jeet Raval for 33 off 83 balls to a catch by Dhananjaya de Silva. Heavy rain robbed 22 overs. 83 minutes.
Sri Lanka included 26-year old slow left arm orthodox bowler Lasith Embuldeniya who made his second Test appearance while leaving out former captain Dinesh Chandimal from a composition that has slotted skipper Karunaratne to open the innings with Lahiru Thirimanne while veteran batsman Angelo Mathews was redrafted following his injury sidelining in Sri Lanka’s last test series against South Africa with his replacement during that tour Kusal Janith Perera retained on the strength of his marathon back to the wall century and a half in the first Test against the Proteas.
Sri Lanka XI: Dimuth Karunaratne (Capt.), Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mendis, Kusal Janith Perera, Niroshan Dickwella, Dhananjaya de Silva, Akila Dananjaya, Lasith Embuldeniya, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara.
New Zealand 203/5 (68 Overs) Run Rate: 2.8
(L.R.P.L. Taylor 86 n.o., H.M. Nicholls 42, J.A. Rayal 33, A. Dananjaya 5/57)
By Srian Obeyesekere
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-