Karunaratne, Madushka ton brings Sri Lanka under control

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By Webdesk

Sri Lanka amassed 276 solid runs for losing only the wicket to Dimuth Karunaratne, as they relaxed control of the second Test, on a rain-shortened day. Nishan Madushka’s first Test century was a highlight as he added 108 to his overnight score. Karunaratne also hit his second hundred in as many innings, before being dismissed for 115 shortly before the scheduled lunch.

Ireland had another torrid day in the field, with their spinners – with the exception of Andy McBrine – unable to control the score let alone come up with some seriously menacing spells. The surface isn’t taking on many turns yet, and as such it doesn’t give bowlers much room for error.

Through stumps, Sri Lanka had scored on 4.63 runs and over, with Karunaratne and Kusal Mendis especially busy in the crease. Poor lighting forced players off the field shortly before scheduled tea, and then rain came to wash out the rest of the day’s play. Madushka was not out on 149 off 234 balls; Mendis was on 83 of 96. After the openers put up 228 combined, the partnership between these two was worth 129. The rain allowed just 59 overs on the day.

After the team score moved smoothly to 81 without a loss the night before, it didn’t take long for Sri Lanka’s openers to find rhythm on day three. Karunaratne was especially fluent in the early exchanges; he cut Curtis Campher for four to start the second over, and later threw Graham Hume for four through midwicket to take the team 100.

Madushka took occasional blows to his perimeter, and there were some half-hearted lbw yells at him as well. But eventually he too began to feel at ease. Karunaratne really got the drive humming in this phase – he hit Campher for two fours in one over, one shot going past halfway, the other just wide of halfway. Both batters completed their half-centuries in the first 40 minutes of play.

McBrine was actually the only spinner to put noticeable pressure on the batters – keeping his lines tight and getting the occasional spin to test the lead. But the batters broke up the other spinners. Debutant left arm spinner Matthew Humphreys’ eight overs went for 56 (three of these overs had been bowled on day two). Legspinner Ben White wasn’t that expensive, but he didn’t really impose himself either, with 5.35 in his 17 overs.

Late in the first session, Karunaratne completed a 16th Test century, from the 116th ball he faced. He had been so efficient at picking up singles and twos in the outfield that the milestone almost crept in. He then coached Madushka to his own century, who reached the final with a six over deep midwicket, after coming down the lane to convert a Harry Tector delivery into a full delivery.

However, Karunaratne would be out next time. He hit a Campher short ball over the edge and sent it into the hands of Humphreys with a good leg. He had made 115 from 133 balls.

Mendis was immediately confident in the crease, reaching 15 off 20 balls, even attacking McBrine using his feet. He took Sri Lanka to 300 with a big slog sweep over a deep square leg from White before scorching McBrine through cover point to complete his fifty. Mendis’ real big hit came as the storm clouds began to gather – he skipped Humphreys three straight sixes in the 72nd, depositing him over deep midwicket each time – the first with a full pitch, the second and third with long hops.

As in the opening stand, Madushka was the quieter partner.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf

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