Sri Lanka made look a daunting run chase like a stroll in the park for a 6-wicket champagne Sunday first test ending by the extended second over past lunch break time on a brilliant captain’s century of 122 off 243 balls consuming 310 minutes and containing 6 boundaries and a six by Dimuth Karunaratne to go 1 up in the ICC World Test Championship and 60 points to boot in the championship table at the Galle International Cricket Stadium. When Angelo Mathews flicked Trent Boult for a single after Dananjaya de Silva had struck the fourth delivery of the previous Southee over it marked another chapter in Sri Lanka’s turnaround from a bad past in the wake of the 3-nil ODI home drubbing of Bangladesh few weeks ago. It also marked a personal milestone for the 31-year old Karunaratne. It was his ninth test ton in 23 innings, and the crowning of carrying the captaincy mantle with an aplomb ease since not so long ago when trusted with the job that serenaded with a historic 2-nil Test series drubbing of South Africa in their own backyard. It was the singular honour of leading from the front as Sri Lanka became the third country to defeat the Proteas in their deep end. The win at Galle against New Zealand has edged Karunaratne a step closer after his second successive series triumph at that level.
The Sunday morning session was the perfect setting before the cricket crazy Galle crowd as Sri Lanka fronted the required135 from an overnight 133 for no loss as Karunaratne went on to light up the final day in a gallop 168 consuming 75 deliveries in his marathon innings in speeding his side towards victory. Lahiru Thirimanne fell for 64 off 163 balls and 237 minutes leg before wicket to Sommerville with the total on 161 as New Zealand also cashed in on the quick wicket of Kusal Mendis for 10 to Patel to make it 174 for 2, Karunaratne ensured he took Sri Lanka past the 200-mark and closer to victory when his marathon innings ended with the total on 218 caught by Watling off Southee. The advent of the hard hitting Kusal Janith Perera hastened the victory charge as he and Angelo Mathews added 32 off 37 balls when the former holed out a catch off Boult for a 19-ball 23 studded with 5 boundaries with the total exactly 250. From that point it was all a formality as the sedate Mathews made no mistake closing on with 28 off 73 with just the two boundaries and Dhananjaya de Silva on 14 off 13 laced with 3 hits to the ropes.
New Zealand 249 and 285 (106 Overs) Run Rate: 2.68
(Watling 77, Embuldeniya 4/99)
Sri Lanka 267 and 268/4 . (86.1 Overs) Run Rate: 3.11 (Karunaratne 122, Thirimanne 64, Mathews 28 n.o., Perera 23, De Silva 14 n.o.)
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-