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Sri Lanka v India, 1st Test, Day 4, CT Player of the Day – Dimuth Karunaratne

Although the Lankan bating failed miserably to make a dent in the target they were given to achieve, Dimuth Karunaratne served as a silver lining for the entire team with his stellar run show. 

Dimuth Karunaratne
Sri Lankan batsman Dimuth Karunaratne plays a shot. (Photo by ISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images)

It was a disappointing day for the Sri Lankan team as India cruised to victory in the first match of the 3-Test series. Not only did the Indian team whisk the match away from the grasp of Sri Lanka, but they did so with a huge margin of 304 runs. However, the Lankans can take heart from the glorious performance that opener, Dimuth Karunaratne put up with the bat.

After having won the toss and opted to bat first, India put up a hefty total of 600 runs on the board, in reply to which Sri Lanka could only muster a meek 291. Their battle was made more difficult by the conspicuous absence of Asela Gunaratne, who has been ruled out of the rest of the series owing to a thumb fracture suffered on the first day of the match.

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Right at the start of the 4th day Indian skipper, Virat Kohli scored his 17th Test century. India declared soon after the captain scored his ton, and the hosts were faced with a mammoth mountain of 550 runs to scale. Although the Lankan batting failed miserably to make a dent in the target they had to achieve, Dimuth Karunaratne served as a silver lining for the entire team with his stellar run show.

The southpaw has emerged as a reliable opener for the Sri Lanka in recent times, and only consolidated his position with the crucial knock of 97 runs off 208 balls that he scored in the 2nd innings of the Test. Unfortunately, he fell short of his 6th ton by just 3 runs.

Holding up one end of the crease

Karunaratne could score just 2 runs off 9 balls in the first innings of before he was dismissed lbw by pacer, Umesh Yadav. Looking for redemption, the 29-year-old made no mistake in his second innings. He scored his first boundary by playing a fine leg glance off Yadav’s bowling, on the penultimate delivery of the 2nd over.

While hitting the occasional boundary against both the Indian new ball bowlers, Karunaratne appeared solid throughout his innings and looked to consolidate his innings, rather than playing a loose shot. Unfortunately, the batsmen at the other end could not derive the same instinct from the opener, and wickets continued to fall regularly.

The other opener, Upul Tharanga was bowled out by Mohammed Shami after a short inning of 10 runs, number 3 batsman Danushka Gunthilaka followed suit by flicking his wicket straight down the throat of Cheteshwar Pujara, placed at square leg. Karunaratne looked unfazed through it all at the other side of the crease and held up his end of the bargain with all his might.

He continued scoring at a steady pace, boosted by the breath-taking boundaries he scored. He brought up his half-century on the last ball of the 26th over, after having hit Ashwin for a glorious shot through square on the off-side on the previous delivery.

100-run partnership with Niroshan Dickwella

Kusal Mendis looked in the right mindset to strike up a solid partnership with Karunaratne, before being caught behind the stumps by wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha for a gritty knock of 36 (71). Angelo Matthews fell cheaply soon after, having scored 2 runs off 10 balls. From there on, Dimuth built up a strong partnership with wicketkeeper-batsman, Niroshan Dickwella was rotating the strike regularly and hitting the odd boundary off the loose deliveries that were on offer. The duo piled a 100-run camaraderie, not allowing the Indian bowlers to dominate.

Done in by the “Nervous Nineties”

While Dickwella scored the majority of the boundaries, Karunaratne kept his feet rooted to the ground. In spite losing his partner at the other end, he inched gradually towards his 6th Test century with the correct mixture of determination and aggression. However, he fell short of his ton as he was bowled by Ashwin for 97 runs.

As Harsha Bhogle summarised his dismissal quite aptly on air, “Think the bowler got him as much as the 90s did.” His innings comprised 9 boundaries, including a particularly gorgeous one towards square on off-side, off Ashwin’s bowling in penultimate delivery of the 38th over. Despite being unable to make ends meet for Sri Lanka, Karunaratne is surely a force to be reckoned with and he has proved that once again with his 208 gig.

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