Karunaratne stands firm for Sri Lanka

Dimuth Karunaratne played a captain’s innings as Sri Lanka ended the second day’s play on 150 for four against South Africa in the second Betway test at the Imperial Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg on Monday.

The Sri Lankan captain struck 17 boundaries off 116 deliveries to end unbeaten on 91 as he guided his side to a second innings lead of five after South Africa had been bowled out for 302 in their first innings, giving the home side a first innings lead of 145.

Lungi Ngidi (9-3-26-3) had struck early for the hosts when the first innings’ top-scorer, Kusal Perera, was clean-bowled for just a single shortly before the tea-break. The visitors resumed after tea on 16 for one and Karunaratne and Lahiru Thirimanne (31) put on 85 for the second wicket, which did most of the hard work for the Islanders.

However, Ngidi removed both Thirimanne and then Kusal Mendis (0) with successive balls, both caught by Quinton de Kock behind the stumps with balls that were clipped down the leg side. Minod Bhanuka (1) was then brilliantly caught on the leg side by Keshav Maharaj, who ran back from mid-wicket and dived full-length, taking the catch off Anrich Nortje (11-1-41-1).

Karunaratne and Niroshan Dickwella (18 not out) then made sure that no further damage was done as the pair posted an unbeaten 41-run stand for the fifth wicket despite some fortune for both with some balls flying through and over the slip cordon. Dickwella’s innings took him past 2000 test runs.

“Hopefully tomorrow morning the wicket still has its sideways movement which has caused quite a bit of trouble over the last few days with some moisture and deterioration and then hopefully we can chase a small total,” said Dean Elgar after the day’s play.

Dean Elgar (127) and Rassie Van der Dussen (67) had started the day with the total on 148 for one and quickly added 68 runs in the first hour at around five runs to the over as Elgar registered his 13th test century and third against Sri Lanka while Van der Dussen brought up his 4th test half-century. But once the drinks break was over, Sri Lanka took control.

“With the covers on the pitch there is always going to be a bit of moisture on top of the grass and then as the sun starts shining down on the pitch, it dries out a bit and then the heavy roller just flattens the pitch,” said South Africa’s opening batsman.

“I would like to score runs on any pitch. At this level you either going to be up against a very good bowling unit or a tough wicket to bat on or both. At the Wanderers we know what it is like, there is quite a lot of seam movement. It is always good to challenge yourself,” said Elgar.

Elgar edged a ball from Dushmantha Chameera (14-1-53-1) to Thirimanne in the slips before Van der Dussen nicked-off to Dickwella behind the stumps from a beautiful ball from Dasun Shanaka (15-3-42-2). Vishwa Fernando (23.4-0-101-5) then picked up the first of his five wickets when he had De Kock caught in the slips by Mendis for just 10.

South Africa went into the lunch break on 256 for five but Fernando grabbed four wickets after lunch, aided by Asitha Fernando (19-5-61-2) as the Proteas capitulated to 302 all out, losing nine wickets for just 84 runs.

“We wanted to cut down the runs and build the pressure, keeping it simple. This was our plan and we bowled in the right areas, and it worked,” said Vishwa Fernando after the day’s play.

“When you come in to bat you really have to be on the ball, as momentum can shift very quickly, but it just shows how valuable it is to have batsmen in. But I think from a mental point of view we just relaxed a bit,” said Elgar

Fernando had Wiaan Mulder (7) trapped leg before before Asitha Fernando had Maharaj caught behind by Dickwella for just two. Vishwa then finished off the tail, trapping Temba Bavuma (19) in front, having Nortje caught in the slips by Mendis before finishing off the South African tail by having Lutho Sipamla caught in the gully by Shanaka.

The home side owned the first day after Karunaratne had won the toss and elected to bat first. The Sri Lankans were bundles out for just 157 before tea with only Perera offering any form of resistance with a top-score of 60, which came from just 67 balls and included 11 boundaries.

Nortje was the pick of the bowlers as the speedster claimed career-best figures of 6-56 while Mulder started the implosion with figures of 3-25 as Sri Lanka lost nine wickets for just 86 runs.

The hosts lost only one wicket in the afternoon session, with Aiden Markram edging through to Mendis off Aistha Fernando (14-2-53-1) for just five with South Africa’s total on 34 before Elgar and Van der Dussen batted out the remainder of the first day’s play with an unbeaten stand of 114.

“I had a glass of wine that made me sleep very well. I’ve been in the nineties overnight in first class cricket before so it’s not my first time so I didn’t feel anxious. I woke up early in fact,” said Elgar.

**As published on Supersport.com

Author: Brendon

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