By Srian Obeyesekere
The old guard of Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal set run making in the sweet rhapsody of a flowing fountain century act in a ground 232-run partnership on an eventful second day commanding 212-run first innings lead that was tainted by the cruel first ball run out of skipper Dhananjaya de Silva who swished the delivery to the covers and ran with the shot in a faulty judgment where both he and non-striker Mathews were equally to blame where the latter had time to respond while de Silva for his part should have realised that his partner wasn’t responding barring which the Lankans basked in a glow that the batting friendly SSC wicket proved to be a bounty as minnows Afghanistan were ground to the dust.
Indeed, the day was turned into a ray of runs as the two former captains set about igniting that old brigade that once held forth true to Sri Lanka’s cause in a past gone by as Mathews and Chandimal descended once again to a progressive run assault on a hapless Afghanistan attack having taken over from Dimuth Karunaratne left with the score on 148 for 3 after Nishan Madushka had fallen first for 37 and one drop Kusal Mendis for 10 taken out by Nijat Masood in exposing his vulnerability to throwing his wicket for all his talent which is a bad element he needs to put behind him to living up to his otherwise shot making reputation. Karunaratne’s 72-ball 77 filled with 12 boundaries had held sway in wresting the initiative Sri Lanka’s way in a 93-run bonding with Madushka, and following Mendis’ early removal Karunaratne and Mathews added 33 for the third-wicket.
Under a sunny sky it was Mathews who set the game alight in a savage rhapsody as he broke loose hammering the Afghan bowlers at will with some lusty blows as he brought up his 15th test century off 184 balls illustrated by 7 boundaries and 3 sixes while Chandimal followed suit in workmanlike manner bringing up his 14th test century off 168 balls filled with 9 boundaries and a six. He was fourth out with the score on 380 edging Naveed Zadran to wicket-keeper Ikram Alikhil for 107 runs off 181 balls having added a further boundary to his tally. It followed the cruel fate of Dhananjaya de Silva, put out of action in the very first delivery he faced in what the new skipper had walked out to in a brimming expectancy to himself getting into the run making act in his first innings wearing the big mantle.
Mathews was sixth out for 141 hit-wicket to Qais Ahmad in what was a lusty swept boundary but stepping on to his stumps in the follow through. It brought play to an end with Sadeera Samarawickrama looking well set on 21 off 22 having smashed 3 boundaries and one over the top.
Mathews’ career defining 259 ball stay was studded with 14 boundaries and 3 sixes. Qais was one of the two spinners’ Mathews had come down hard on having lofted him down the ground to the stands for six to whom he finally fell in that erring calamity.
The scenario as it is will see Sri Lanka enter the third day on Sunday on a decisive note to making short shrift of their opponents,