Centuries from Tillekeratne Dilshan 101 and Kumar Sangakkara 111 not out helped Sri Lanka end the first day of the First of Three Tests against Pakistan in a strong position, here today. At the close Sri Lanka were 300 for 2 wickets with the other batsman not out being Mahela Jayawardena on 55.
After losing Paranvitarne at 63, century partnerships for the second wicket – 124 between Dilshan and Sangakkara and Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena - 113 for the third wicket boosted the Sri Lankan score.
Sangakkara who cut and pulled with ease reached his 29th century when he pushed Ajmal to mid off. It came in 159 balls with12 fours 9 in 247 minutes. It was his 29th Test hundred.
When play begins on the second day, Sangakkara, and Jayawardena must continue the good work and Thilan Samaraweera, Prasana Jayawardena and Angelo Matthews the batsmen to follow must see the team to a big score so that they will not have to bat a second time on a wicket that is sure to crumble.
Of the Pakistani bowlers, it was off spinner Saeed Ajmal who troubled the batsmen most. His figures of 2 for 81 does not tell the story.
After early morning rain, the ground was bathed in sunshine when the two captains Mohammed Hafeez and Mahela Jayawardena walked out to spin the coin.
Jayawardena who is blessed with the luck of winning tosses, spun the coin and was delighted when Match Referee and former Australian opening bat David Boon informed him that he had won the toss.
For Pakistan 32-year old Mohammed Ayub made his debut in place of Captain Misbah, suspended by the ICC for one match. Ayub is a middle order batman having played 32 first class matches.
Sri Lanka was looking to play and open bowling with Chanaka Welegedera. But he complained of an injury and Nuwan Kulesekera was picked to partner Nuwan Pradeep the new ball.
The wicket looked a good one to bat on and although there was a bit of movement early on, especially with Umar Gul beating Tharanga Paranvitarne a few times, the wicket behaved.
But was alarming was when off spinner and acting captain Mohammd Hafeez came on to bowl. There was a lot of turn, first ball which was a sign that the wicket would favour the spinners as the game progressed.
So it is paramount that the Lankans put up a big first innings total of something like over 400 and let the Pakistani batsmen sink or swim when they strike.
Sri Lanka took lunch on a healthy 94 for one with the batsman out being Paranavitarne for 24 with the score on 63. After surviving a couple of chances and looking good, he jumped out to Saeed Ajmal missed and was stumped by wicket keeper Adan Akmal.
Incidentally Akmal is the brother of Kamran and Umar who have also kept wickets for Pakistan. Tillekeratne Dilshan who was enjoying himself played an entertaining innings racing to 21st Test 50 in 49 balls with 6 fours and a six and at lunch was on 56 with Kumar Sangakkara on 12.
With the wicket playing easy after lunch, and the Pakistani bowlers proving innocuous, Dilshan and Sangakkara batting sensibly and with a lot of discipline continued to consolidate.
Both batsmen were in no undue hurry. They kept the scoreboard moving with some good stroke play and running between the wickets. Sangakkara who has a fondness for the Pakistan bowling went to his 39th Test 50 with 6 fours.
Dilshan was in great form playing some lovely drives and pulls and none of the bowlers troubled him. He went to his 13th Test hundred when he swept left arm spinner Abdul Rehman to the fine leg boundary. It was another fine innings and added to his stature.
After putting up a splendid partnership for the second wicket – 124 in 157 minutes and 246 balls with Sangakkara, Dilshan lost his wicket, LBW to a top spinner from the hard working Saeed Ajmal in the penultimate over before tea. He made 101 in 180 balls with 13 fours and a six in 235 minutes.
At tea Sri Lanka were 188 for 2 with Sangakkara on 56 and Mahela Jaywardena yet to score.