Tharanga Solid As Sri Lanka Extend Lead

Armed with a 182-run lead before the start of the fourth day's play, a 69-run opening partnership between Upul Tharanga and Dimuth Karunaratne - the first half-century stand for Sri Lanka for the opening wicket in 2017 - helped the hosts tighten their hold over the first Test at the Galle International Stadium. Although only 87 runs came in the extended first session on Friday (March 10), the lead swelled gradually as Sri Lanka stretched their advantage to a 269-run one over Bangladesh by Lunch.

Mehedi Hasan, who operated with the new ball, didn't have much luck, beating the outside edge of Tharanga's bat on one occasion, inducing Karunaratne into a drive that brushed the fingertips of Shakib Al Hasan at cover before an uppish drive from Karunaratne evaded the bowler who dived full length to his right. Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan openers were happy to trudge along during the first hour, scoring at just over 2 an over to extend the lead past 200.

On a wicket that wasn't offering much assistance to the bowlers, Tharanga's hit over long-off off Mehedi in the eighth over was the only boundary that came in the first hour. Eight overs later, he jumped down the track and drove a Mehedi delivery just past his opening partner to the mid-off fence for the first four of the innings. Karunaratne got another leading edge, off Shakib, that went past the lone slip fielder which earned the batsman a couple of runs, bringing up the half-century stand in the 20th over. In the same over, Karunaratne reverse-swept the left-arm spinner for his first boundary.

Having settled down nicely, and not being troubled by the bowlers much, the Sri Lankan openers had set up an ideal launchpad and entertained thoughts of a big partnership. However, those ideas were put to rest soon after the lead had crossed 250 as Karunaratne failed to keep down a pull off Taskin Ahmed and saw Mahmudullah hold on to a good catch.

With his confidence back after the wicket, Taskin ran in hard and troubled both Tharanga and Kusal Mendis by beating the outside edge on multiple occasions and even finding the edge of the bat a couple of times, but to no avail. Tharanga and Mendis dug in, not attempting anything fancy with Lunch approaching, and put on an undefeated 18-run stand off 65 deliveries to help Sri Lanka go into the break without further damage.

Although the going has been relatively slow for Sri Lanka, with their second innings runs so far coming at a scoring rate of only 2.64, it has provided the hosts the platform to surge towards a daunting total. The Sri Lankan batsmen will be expected to step on the pedal in the next session with rain threat looming.

Brief scores: Sri Lanka 494 & 87/1 (Upul Tharanga 40*, Dimuth Karunaratne 32; Taskin Ahmed 1-12) lead Bangladesh 312 by 269 runs.

(Cricbuzz)


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