Sri Lanka vs Bangladesh, 1st Test, Kandy
Revamped batting approach yields Sri Lanka captain’s highest Test score
Be patient until you get settled at the crease, then trust yourself to catch up on the scoring rate later. This, essentially, is what Dimuth Karunaratne told himself as he made a start on the innings that produced his highest Test score.
Karunaratne’s 244 off 437 balls was the highest individual score by a Sri Lanka batsman since 2014, and only their second double century in six years. It allowed the hosts to surpass Bangladesh’s 541 for 7 declared, and made safe their situation in the game.
Karunaratne said three failures during the recent Tests in the West Indies had prompted a re-think in his Test batting approach, and helped yield these results. He’d made scores of 12, 3 and 1 in the Caribbean, before finishing that tour with a 75.
“In the West Indies I was trying to score runs quickly in the first few overs and really get among the runs,” he said. “But because that was unsuccessful I talked to the coach and asked him what I was doing wrong. He said as an opener just wait until you get set, because when you do that you make a big score, and that’s your game.”
While Karunaratne’s opening partner, Lahiru Thirimanne, made a brisk start, Karunaratne scored only 16 from his first 65 deliveries.
“I tried to leave the ball a lot when I started here, and properly get settled,” he said. “I know that when I get set, I can catch up on the scoring rate later. That’s what I applied here. Even in home conditions, I wanted to make that my gameplan. I got good support from Thiri, who was scoring quickly in that period, so I was able to take my time.”
Karunaratne has made big hundreds before – five of his 11 centuries now having brought scores of 150 or higher. He was desperate to capitalise on the easy pace of this surface. No pitch in Sri Lanka has yielded a draw in almost seven years.
“On this pitch a fifty wasn’t enough for me,” he said. “I saw that almost everyone in the Bangladesh team got a fifty. I’m not the kind of player who’s satisfied with just getting a fifty on this kind of pitch. I wanted to turn my 50 into a hundred and my hundred into a one-fifty. And you very rarely get pitches like this in Sri Lanka – you generally get tracks that turn a lot. And when you go overseas, you get a lot of seaming conditions. I wanted to get the maximum out of this pitch.”
Karunaratne was also on the field on all five days – totalling well over 26 hours of playing time. His own innings, which went for 656 minutes had come after he’d been on the field captaining for 780 minutes – Bangladesh having batted for 173 overs.
“When you play a Test you have to be mentally prepared to be on the field all five days, whether that’s fielding or batting,” Karunaratne said. “Yes, you can feel it in your body when you’ve been fielding a couple of days, but when you get a chance to bat, you’ve got to take that opportunity.
“Even in the West Indies I got a start a couple of times but couldn’t make a big score. So once I got a start and got set here, I really wanted to bat long here, especially as they’d already made a big score. I was able to do that. I’m tired, but I really enjoyed it, and when you’re enjoying it you don’t feel the fatigue so much. On day five, we wanted to declare once we got to certain score, but if we hadn’t wanted to do that, I could have batted all day today as well.”
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf