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  • Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 1st Test, Galle, 1st day

Sri Lanka top order takes Pakistan apart

The Report by Siddarth Ravindran
June 22, 2012
Sri Lanka 300 for 2 (Sangakkara 111*, Dilshan 101, M Jayawardene 55*) v Pakistan
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Kumar Sangakkara celebrates his fourth century in Galle © AFP
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Nine months ago, the ICC had said a "better balance between bat and ball (needs to be) achieved" after a Galle dustbowl made life difficult for batsmen. Today, on an unexpectedly sunny day in Galle, Sri Lanka reached stumps at a commanding 300 for 2.

Ahead of the series, Mahela Jayawardene had talked of the need for Sri Lanka's experienced players to build a platform for the others. He couldn't have expected more: Tillakaratne Dilshan made his first Test hundred in more than a year, Kumar Sangakkara drew level with Don Bradman on 29 centuries and Jayawardene himself made an unbeaten 55.

It rounded off a wretched day for Pakistan cricket. Before the start of play came the news of disgraced former captain Salman Butt returning home from jail and denying involvement in spot-fixing, and towards stumps the headlines were about legspinner Danish Kaneria being found guilty of corruption by the ECB.

Though the scoreline might suggest it, the Galle track didn't overnight become a clone of the famously flat SSC pitch. It didn't provide much for the quick bowlers - either with the new ball or old - but there was plenty to interest Pakistan's world-class spinners. As early as the first session, Abdul Rehman got the odd ball to bounce extra, all the spinners got the ball to turn sharply.

Especially in the half hour before lunch, Saeed Ajmal and Rehman piled on the pressure. Dilshan survived several lbw appeals, Sangakkara edged past slip, there was a leading edge from Dilshan, the spinners put together three successive maidens, and despite a healthy score of 94 for 1 Sri Lanka were relieved when the lunch interval arrived.

Before that spell, Dilshan had dished out his usual crash-bang-wallop style of batting. Mohammad Hafeez, the stand-in Pakistan captain, had done a solid job on being handed the ball early in recent Tests, but he was launched over long-on for six in his second over. By the time Junaid returned for his second spell around the morning drinks break, Dilshan was serving up regular boundaries: a couple of dismissive pulls for four and nutmegging the non-striker with a punched drive for another four.

Kumar Sangakkara played an innings expected from him. Minimal risks were taken, the sweep shot was employed tactically as the spinners plugged away, and it wasn't till he was past his half-century that the more cavalier lofted drives were brought out. He was the most comfortable of the Sri Lankan batsmen, not flustered by anything Pakistan flung at him.

Pakistan should count among Sangakkara's favourite opposition: he now has 1941 Test runs against them at an average of 84.39. If there were any nerves in the 90s, he was hardly tested as he was first gifted a wide delivery that was easily put away through cover before being handed a dreadful delivery well down the leg side which he helped to the fine leg boundary to reach 99. Then, he panicked momentarily, dropping the ball towards mid-off and setting off for a dicey single which needed a dive to beat the throw.

Jayawardene's innings, on the other hand, wasn't what you'd expect from him. He got off the mark on his 16th delivery with a scoop for four, and followed it up with a reverse-sweep for another boundary. Though he went on to another half-century at a ground where he routinely scores hundreds, he looked shaky at times, top-edging an attempted paddle and surviving an lbw call off Umar Gul on 21, though he looked plumb.

Gul may have gone wicketless on the day, but he bowled with heart on an unhelpful surface. The umpire missed a Tharanga Paranavitana inside-edge early in the morning to deny Gul a wicket. He beat the bat plenty of times and had several lbw appeals, but couldn't get the breakthroughs.

The only Sri Lankan to have a bad day was Paranavitana, whose hold on the opening slot is tenuous given that Lahiru Thirimanne is on the bench. He didn't make too much of a case for getting an extended run as two balls after being put down at silly point, he uncharacteristically charged out against Ajmal to be comprehensively beaten, and stumped.

After that, Sangakkara was involved in two big partnerships as Sri Lanka steadily moved into a position of dominance.

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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