Lahiru Thirimanne might well have played the innings of his life yet rising from a patchy strutting of low scores but at long last in a confidence reposed unbeaten 73-run pay off of his second coming from the hibernation of having lost his way since his last Test ton in 2013, in a Sri Lanka rallying back second innings score of 156 for 2 after England had been dismissed for 421 on Joe Root’s mammoth 228 on the third day of the ICC Championship first Test match at the Galle International Stadium on Saturday. There was the hard hitting Kusal Janith Perera in a more restrained cushioning 109-ball 62 containing 5 boundaries and a six in a 101-run opening partnership.
The 31-year old Thirimanne’s 189-ball obdurate innings consuming 6 boundaries was indeed classic Test match stuff personifying the demanding endurance grit as Sri Lanka looked down the barrel of defeat 286 runs in arrears batting a second time on a deteriorating track. In that scenario it was a commendable comeback effort as he went on to add a further 54 runs for the second wicket with Kusal Mendis who battled a horror run of four consecutive ducks to making 15 off 65 hitting a solitary boundary. The battle for survival far from over, still 130 runs in arrears, much will depend on the left handed Thirimanne to haul Sri Lanka out of defeat against a charged up England when he resumes with his night watchman Lasith Embuldeniya on zero having faced 5 deliveries.
Given the first innings debacle, Sri Lanka’s great expectations of staving off defeat will largely depend on how disciplined the batting department will be on a decisive fourth day with the onus as very much on star batsmen Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews to carry the side through with the bottom line of Niroshan Dickwella, Dasun Shanaka and Wanindu Hasaranga to follow. Considering that the 100-plus Thirimanne-Perera opening alliance was the first century stand conceded by England since their 2017 Ashes series, it was a positivity from which the Lankan camp could look to taking it further down the line for what would be a great escape pull off if the hosts could spar off the breathing down pressure of two days of England’s thrust for victory.
It was a spirited rallying back by the Lankan bowlers in checking England’s run thrust removing the last six batsmen for 101 runs with apart from Joe Root adding 60 to his overnight 168, only Jos Buttler making a substantial score of 30 as Dilruwan Perera accounted for 3 of those wickets including the prize wicket of the England captain whom he had caught by Lasith Embuldeniya for figures of 4 for 109 while paceman Asitha Fernando did well to claim 2 for 44. Root’s 321-ball knock spanning 476 minutes contained 18 boundaries and a six.
SRI LANKA 135
AND 156/2 (61 Overs) RR: 2.55
(Lahiru Thirimanne n.o. 76, Kusal Janith Perera 62, Kusal Mendis 15, Lasith Embuldeniya n.o. 0,
Sam Curran 1/25, Jack Leach 1/65)
ENGLAND 320/4 O/N, 421 (117.1 Overs) RR: 3.59
(Joe Root 228, Dan Lawrence 73, Jonny Bairstow 47, Jos Buttler 30, Dilruwan Perera 4/109, Lasith Embuldeniya 3/176, Asitha Fernando 2/44)