Opening batsman Dimuth Karunaratne struck a defiant unbeaten hundred on his return to the side to give the hosts a fighting first innings total in the opening test against South Africa on Thursday.
The 30-year-old carried his bat through the Sri Lankan innings to remain unbeaten on 158 as the hosts finished on 287 after stand-in captain Suranga Lakmal won the toss and chose to bat in the first of the two-test series.
South Africa lost opener Aiden Markram to veteran left-arm spinner Rangana Herath to reach four for one at stumps. Dean Elgar and nightwatchman Keshav Maharaj were at the crease.
The hosts’ regular captain Dinesh Chandimal has pleaded guilty to a disciplinary breach during the side’s second test against West Indies last month and has opted to sit out of the series against South Africa.
The International Cricket Council, the world governing body of the sport, is due to announce a verdict in the case soon.
On a turning surface at Galle, it was fast bowler Kagiso Rabada who did the maximum damage for the touring side with four wickets for 50. Left-arm wristspinner Tabraiz Shamsi, playing only his second test, returned figures of 3-91.
Former pace spearhead Dale Steyn, returning to the South African team from injury having last played a test in January, picked up the wicket of Kusal Mendis for 24 to trigger a mini collapse.
Rabada removed former captain Angelo Mathews and Roshen Silva in the same over as the hosts lost three wickets for four runs to be left reeling at 119-5.
Experienced Karunaratne, back to open the batting for the hosts after missing the West Indies tour due to injury, stitched together meaningful stands with Niroshan Dickwella, who made 18, and Lakshan Sandakan, the duo adding 63 for the last wicket.
The left-handed batsman hit 13 fours and one six during his 222-ball unbeaten knock.
Sri Lanka 1st innings
Danushka Gunathilaka c Quinton de Kock b Kagiso Rabada 26
Dimuth Karunaratne Not Out 158
Dhananjaya de Silva b Tabraiz Shamsi 11
Kusal Mendis c Kagiso Rabada b Dale Steyn 24
Angelo Mathews c Quinton de Kock b Kagiso Rabada 1
Roshen Silva c Aiden Markram b Kagiso Rabada 0
Niroshan Dickwella c Hashim Amla b Tabraiz Shamsi 18
Dilruwan Perera c Quinton de Kock b Vernon Philander 1
Rangana Herath Run Out Vernon Philander 1
Suranga Lakmal c Quinton de Kock b Kagiso Rabada 10
Lakshan Sandakan st Quinton de Kock b Tabraiz Shamsi 25
Extras 7b 1lb 2nb 0pen 2w 12
Total (78.4 overs) 287 all out
Fall of Wickets : 1-44 Gunathilaka, 2-70 de Silva, 3-115 Mendis, 4-119 Mathews, 5-119 Silva, 6-161 Dickwella, 7-164 Perera, 8-176 Herath, 9-224 Lakmal, 10-287 Sandakan
Bowling: Vernon Philander 8-1-28 -1, Dale Steyn 13-0-54-1, Kagiso Rabada 14-1-50-4 3, Keshav Maharaj 17-3-49-0, Tabraiz Shamsi 25.4-2-91-3, Dean Elgar 1-0-7-0
South Africa 1st innings
Dean Elgar Not Out 4
Aiden Markram c Angelo Mathews b Rangana Herath 0
Keshav Maharaj Not Out 0
Extras 0b 0lb 0nb 0pen 0w 0
Total (4.0 overs) 4-1
Fall of Wickets : 1-1 Markram
To Bat : Amla, Bavuma, du Plessis, de Kock, Philander, Shamsi, Rabada, Steyn
Bowling: Rangana Herath 2-1-1-1, Dilruwan Perera 2-1-3-0
Opener Dimuth Karunaratne hit an unbeaten 37 as Sri Lanka made a solid start against South Africa on the opening day of the first Test in Galle on Thursday.
Sri Lanka were 93 for two at lunch with Karunaratne partnering Kusal Mendis, on 19, after the hosts elected to bat at the start of the two-match series.
Paceman Kagiso Rabada and left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi took a wicket each in the morning session.
Rabada struck first to send back Danushka Gunathilaka, caught behind for 26 on a delivery that rose sharply. The wicket ended a 44-run opening stand.
The spinners soon got into the action on what seems like a dry surface, and Shamsi bowled Dhananjaya de Silva for 11 to put the hosts in a bit of trouble at 70-2.
But the left-right batting combination of Karunaratne and Mendis compiled an unbeaten 23-run stand as the hosts headed into the break without losing any more wickets.
The visitors should have had Gunathilaka caught behind down the leg side off Vernon Philander in the first over, but wrongly opted not to review the on-field umpire's not out decision.
Karunaratne faced 69 balls in the first session, safely negotiating the quicks, though he appeared less assured against Shamsi. His most memorable stroke was a hook for six off Dale Steyn.
Stand in Sri Lanka captain Suranga Lakmal won the toss and elected to bat first in the opening Test against South Africa here in Galle a short while ago.
As expected Sri Lanka has decided to go ahead with a spin heavy attack comprising Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera and Lakshan Sandakan while the tourists have strengthened its bowling attack by bringing in three fast bowlers and two spinners
South Africa: 1 Dean Elgar, 2 Aiden Markram, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Temba Bavuma, 5 Faf du Plessis (capt), 6 Quinton de Kock (wk), 7 Vernon Philander, 8 Keshav Maharaj, 9 Tabraiz Shamsi, 10 Kagiso Rabada, 11 Dale Steyn
Sri Lanka: 1 Dimuth Karunaratne, 2 Danushka Gunathilaka, 3 Dhananjaya de Silva, 4 Kusal Mendis, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Roshen Silva, 7 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 8 Dilruwan Perera, 9 Rangana Herath, 10 Suranga Lakmal (capt), 11 Lakshan Sandakan
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