By Srian Obeyesekere
Sri Lanka ended the first day of the first test against Pakistan on 242 for 6 wickets having recovered from a shaky 4 for 54 following a 131-run fifth-wicket partnership between Dhananjaya de Silva, who was unbeaten on 94 and Angelo Mathews 64 at the Galle International Cricket Stadium on Sunday.
Dhananjaya de Silva had struck 10 boundaries and 3 sixes in an aggressive 157-ball unfinished knock, and Angelo Mathews’ pierced the ropes on nine occasions in a dominant partnership that brought back Sri Lanka into the game after paceman Shaheen Shah Afridi had grabbed three early wickets that put Pakistan in control in a moist first session with Sri Lanka on 54 for 4 after 15.2 overs. Afridi, returning after a year long injury lay off was on song sending back Nishan Madushka for 4 caught behind by Sarfaraz Ahmed in the second ball of his second over with the score 6. Four overs later he went on to remove Kusal Mendis caught by Agha Salman for 12 as Sri Lanka lost a second wicket for 22. His third victim was Lankan skipper Dimuth Karunaratne who had resisted the early Pakistan offensive moving on to 29 off 43 before edging Afridi behind and one run later Dinesh Chandimal was sent back by Naseem Shah who had him caught by Babar Azam and Sri Lanka was in all sorts of trouble at 54 for 4.
But former captain Angelo Mathews rose to the occasion taking on the Pakistan attack in the post-lunch session forging a Lankan recovery together with Vice Captain Dhananjaya de Silva as the pair got on top with some aggressive stroke play. De Silva opened up with an array of boundaries and two sixes off Noman Ali. Progressively Mathews opened up with some classy drives through mid-wicket. But Pakistan struck seeing the back of Mathews on the stroke of tea mistiming a cut and edging Abrar Ahmed to the wicket-keeper. By then the hosts had recovered to 185 after 48.1 overs, and the advent of Sadeera Samarawickrama saw Sri Lanka advance to 242 on a strip that offered little help to the pacemen and spinners. But the final over of the day saw Pakistan claw back when Agha Salman, who had labored wicket less throughout the day surprised Samarawickrama taking his bat and pad to a diving Imam-ul-Haq. He made 36 off 57 hitting 5 boundaries.
Sri Lanka though would be buoyed by the presence of Dhananjaya de Silva going into the second day in sight of his 10th test century and with the gritty Ramesh Medis to keep him company. Bringing up the tail would be pacers Vishwa Fernando and Kasun Rajitha.
Sri Lanka 242/6 (65.4 Overs)
(Dimuth Karunaratne 29, Kusal Mendis 12, Angelo Mathews 64, Dhananjaya de Silva n.o. 94, Sadeera Samarawickrama 36, Shaheen Shah Afridi 3/63 (15), Agha Salman 1/18, Abrar Ahmed 1/59, Naseem Shah 1/66)