On paper, 214 for 5 on the opening day of a Test match looks rather routine. Under normal circumstances, it would be a case of the bowling side having a slight edge, with the batting side just about hanging in there. 214 was 5 was Sri Lanka’s score at the end of day one at the SSC in Colombo. But, things were as it seemed. In fact, it was quite an astonishing day of Test cricket. Bowling first, Australia had Sri Lanka in a hugely embarrassing position at 26 for 5. Yet, they ended up with 214 without losing any further wicket thanks to Dhananjaya de Silva’s brilliant century, and a fifty from Dinesh Chandimal.
Batting at number seven, Dhananjaya smashed a brilliant hundred, a maiden ton in only his third Test. He was unbeaten on 116 at the end of a sensational day’s play, having faced 240 deliveries, during which he smashed 16 fours. Chandimal, on the other hand, put his head down and managed an unbeaten 64, after facing as many as 204 balls. Chandimal hit only four fours during his stay at the crease. That is how patient he was. The partnership between Dhananjaya and Chandimal was unbeaten on 188 at the end of day’s play, as Sri Lanka ended the day on a high.
The situation could have been much worse for Sri Lanka after the top and middle order collapsed, had Dhananjaya not gone for a review after being given out caught at bat pad for 5 off Nathan Lyon. The batsman hadn’t hit the ball, and the reviews made it clear. At the other end, Mitchell Marsh dropped Chandimal at gully when he the batsman was merely on 11. Dhananjaya was again dropped at cover by comeback man Shaun Marsh, but this time he was past his hundred. In between, Dhananjaya and Chandimal batted with great gusto to frustrate Australia.
Dhananjaya hit three fours in an over from Mitchell Starc, and pulled and hooked with ease. With wickets not coming, even Australian skipper Steven Smith had to introduce himself in the attack. Dhananjaya got to a hundred cutting Smith, off 209 balls. At the other end, Chandimal, normally known for his attacking strokeplay, was unbelievably calm at the crease. Walking in at a disastrous position at 24 for 4, Chandimal got to a fifty from 165 balls. Australia had no luck with the ball, and their poor fielding only made matters worse.
The last two sessions were in stark contrast to the first where Australia scythed through the Lankan batting. Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva again failed to get into double figures. Silva was caught in the slip off Starc for a duck, edging one. Karunaratne was bowled by the same bowler for 7. Nathan Lyon was brought in early, and he spun one to get Kusal Perera caught in the slips. Lyon also got Angelo Mathews with a top-edged sweep. Starc struck again, having Kusal Mendis caught at third slip with one that angled away. Australia wouldn’t have imagined that would be their last wicket of the day.
--By A Cricket Correspondent