Karunaratne sparkles for Sri Lanka on rain-hit day

Dimuth Karunaratne plays one straight down the ground
Sri Lanka v New Zealand, 2nd Test, P Sara Oval, 1st day August 22, 2019

Sri Lanka 85 for 2 (Karunaratne 49*, de Grandhomme 1-14) v New Zealand

Dimuth Karunaratne led Sri Lanka's slow but steady progress on a rain-drenched first day at the P Sara Oval in Colombo. The Sri Lanka captain blunted the new ball and grew more fluent against the old one, making an unbeaten 49 off 100 balls, on a truncated day that saw only 36.3 overs. This, just three days after he had broken into the top ten in the Test batting rankings.

A persistent drizzle had wiped out the entire morning session before returning to delay the start of the final session of the day. Although it relented, fading light resulted in early stumps on the opening day.

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After Sri Lanka had opted to bat, both Tim Southee and Trent Boult found swing and seam movement on a grassy track, but their lengths weren't full enough. It was offspinner Will Somerville who provided New Zealand with the breakthrough, when he extracted turn and bounce to have Lahiru Thrimanne, the other opener, spooning a catch to short cover for a skittish 2 off 35 balls.

Karunaratne, much like Thirimanne, had been uncertain when the ball was pitched up, and threaded the cordon twice when he reached out outside off in the early exchanges. However, when Boult erred short, Karunaratne rose on top of the bounce and crunched him between point and cover for a brace of fours.

Karunaratne's defensive technique was tighter against Somerville and Ajaz Patel although he faced only eight balls of spin. Somerville's tussle with Thirimanne was more intriguing as the offspinner challenged the edges with fuller lengths. Somerville could have had Thirmanne with his third ball when he drew a bottom edge, but wicketkeeper BJ Watling wasn't quick enough to close his gloves around the ball.

Moments after being dropped, Thirimanne cracked under pressure and loosely drove Somerville to Williamson in the 15th over. Kusal Mendis then played a few lively shots and upset Somerville's lengths, but he was largely circumspect against the seamers. He contributed 32 to a 50-run second-wicket stand with Karunaratne before Colin de Grandhomme landed the ball on the seam and had him nicking off in the post-tea session.

New Zealand had broken up their three-man spin attack and picked seam-bowling allrounder Colin de Grandhomme in place of Mitchell Santner, who not too long ago was their No.1 spinner. Sri Lanka, meanwhile, recalled a fit-again Dilruwan Perera in place of Akila Dananjaya, who risks suspension after being reported for suspect action for a second time in ten months.

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