Sri Lanka had sailed through the first session in Rawalpindi, a century opening stand in sight, but at the end of the day were left ruing the post-lunch session in which they lost four wickets for 31 runs.
Dimuth Karunaratne and Oshada Fernando had seemed settled, with Karunaratne hitting a fluent fifty, and Oshada growing in confidence after he had taken 20 deliveries to get off the mark. But Karunaratne’s dismissal in the 31st over was followed by Oshada edging Naseem Shah to first slip soon after. Kusal Mendis and Dinesh Chandimal were then also dismissed before the end of the 45th over – a period in which Sri Lanka progressed at just a little over two an over.
Karunaratne believes Sri Lanka should have batted with more intent through the middle session, after having gone to lunch without loss.
“There was a bit of swing in that second session, and a little seam, but I think we could have used a different approach because we’d had a good start, having made 89 in the first session,” he said. “Maybe we could have been more of a threat to their bowlers after lunch. We should have batted a bit more positively, because when the runs are ticking over on the board, even if wickets fall, it’s not such a big deal.”
Although all but one of Sri Lanka’s batsmen made it to double figures (the exception being Dinesh Chandimal, who received a near-unplayable away-seamer from Mohammad Abbas), only Karunaratne made a half-century on day one. Oshada and Angelo Mathews both faced more than 75 deliveries, but made only 40 and 31 respectively.
“We got good starts, but no one went for a big score,” Karunaratne said. “We got a few 20s and 30s. We need to be converting those scores if we want to win a Test. Everyone, including me, has to make sure we don’t let go once we get those starts – in the next innings if we can.”
Oshada’s innings, however, like many of his outings this year, had been full of promise. Shunted up to the unfamiliar position of opener, he had settled into a rhythm through the course of the first session, and even memorably came down the pitch to hit Haris Sohail over his head for the only six of the day. Oshada had shone during Sri Lanka’s tour of South Africa in February, striking an especially impressive 75 not out off 106 balls as Sri Lanka chased down what had seemed a tricky target in Port Elizabeth. He had not played a Test since then however, as he was displaced in the XI by Mathews, who returned from injury in the series that followed.
“Oshada batted really well. This is only his third Test, and his attitude and batting style were very good,” Karunaratne said. “He batted with a lot of confidence. That became a strength for me as well. I knew I could give him the strike without any fear. I thought he was batting even better than me in the first session. There were one or two times when he was getting a bit loose, and at those times I just reminded him to make sure he capitalises on his start.”
Sri Lanka finished the day at 202 for 5, with Dhananjaya de Silva and Niroshan Dickwella (the last recognised batting pair) at the crease.
“We need to try and get to 300, because we need a good total to give our bowlers a chance. We got a good start and didn’t capitalise. Dikka opens the batting in shorter formats, and Dhananjaya has come in at No. 3 for us in the past, so both of them should be able to negotiate the second new ball when that comes around. Hopefully they can get us past 275 and then the tail can get a few extra runs.”