Andrew Fidel Fernando, in ESPNcricinfo, 16 April 2023,
Dimuth Karunaratne struck an assured 179, Kusal Mendis amassed 140, and Sri Lanka took firm grip of the Test, as that pair’s 281-run partnership for the second wicket formed the centrepiece of the hosts’ dominant day one. Not only were Karunaratne and Mendis largely untroubled by the Ireland bowlers on a flat Galle deck, they also ensured that their progress was brisk, hitting 33 fours and a six between them.
TWO: Daniel Byrne’s Reading, via Email Reportage
Woods and I camped inside Mr. Moin’s office from around 8.40 to await the presentation of the illusive membership card. By 9.15 he had got fed up with us, so we were escorted to our seats in the Member’s area without having to buy tickets. As the players warmed up, we were serenaded by some excellent Irish music, all strings and drums with no singing. The Irish players looked like basketball players when compared with the Sri Lankan’s as they limbered up on the outfield. An unidentified accipiter flew over the ground as Frank won the toss and elected to bat.
I introduced Woods to Percy Abeysekera who may or not be 87 years old. I struggled to explain to Percy that he wasn’t Underwood but might have been a fine cricketer in his day. We had no idea of the composition of the two sides except for the names of the opening batsmen on the screen in front of the Fort, ( Frank ) Dimuth Karunaratne and Nishan Madushka. George Dockrell was forced to save a boundary off the second delivery of the match and by a process of elimination we worked out that he had replaced Graham Hume. Curtis Campher opened the bowling with Mark Adair which confirmed our conclusion and Madushka overtook his previous best Test score in the fourth over. McBrine was brought on as early as the eighth over and ten runs came from the first over of spin. It was clearly going to be a long day in the field for Ireland.
The Sri Lankan 50 came up in the twelfth over and at the drinks break they had rattled off 63 – 0 from 14 overs. Immediately after the interval Campher had Madushka caught behind off his glove ( 64 – 1 ). White replaced Adair at the Fort End and Kusal Mendis edged a fortunate boundary wide of slip to the leg spinner who made his first-class debut in the previous Test in Mirpur. Frank’s half century came up from 67 balls and at lunch Sri Lanka had reached 119 – 1 from 28 overs. Mendis came down the wicket to take on McBrine after the interval and 10 runs came from the over that brought up his half century from 80 deliveries.
You come across all sorts of characters watching cricket at Galle and I couldn’t help noticing a guy with a bald head waving a Sri Lankan flag while balancing a bottle of water on his head. Woods had disappeared at lunch to have another go at getting his membership card and there was still no sign of him. White conceded 35 from his 6 overs and was replaced by Dockrell at the Fort End. McBrine finally managed to bowl a maiden on the eighteenth attempt and was then replaced by Adair, presumably for slowing down the run rate. Frank hit Adair for a glorious cover drive to bring up his first boundary in almost two hours covering 61 deliveries. Dockrell had started reasonably well, but his fourth over included two dreadful long hops that Mendis strained to despatch to the mid-wicket fence. The best chance of removing one of these batsmen was going to be through self-inflicted injury.
White was given a bowl from the Pavilion End and the batsmen continued to make scoring look easy. Dockrell provided a few more short deliveries down the leg side and it was painful to watch. Frank completed his fifteenth Test century in his 85th match from 137 balls in the 53rd over. When Tea arrived, the score had climbed to 245 – 1 from 56 overs. There were two bands playing at the same time competing to see which could make the most abhorrent noise. They really should ban musical instruments from grounds in Sri Lanka to protect the sanity of the paying ( or, in this case non-paying ) spectators. A group of 21 Eastern Cattle Egrets suddenly descended on the outfield from the Fort End and the man with the bottle on his head was still happily dancing to the tuneless music.
Mendis completed his eighth Test century in his 57th Test in the first over after the resumption. The 200 partnership came up from 266 balls. 70 runs were taken from the first 10 overs after tea and Ireland were on the ropes. Frank attempted a reverse sweep and survived an Irish Review for a possible caught behind. He brought up his 150 from 188 balls. Mendis tried a slog sweep to Dockrell and wasn’t as fortunate as the Sri Lankan Review led to the umpire’s decision being upheld ( 345 – 2 ). The partnership had put on 281 runs from 355 balls. Mathews was caught behind off his third delivery chasing a wide delivery from White ( 348 – 3 ) and suddenly the scoreboard didn’t look quite so bad.
Chandimal came out and immediately stroked the ball to all parts of the ground. The new ball was taken as soon as it was available and Adair finally got the wicket he deserved when Frank was caught behind for 179 with the score 373 – 4. McBrine was given the new ball from the Pavilion End and the Sri Lankans avoided losing any further wickets before the close of play. 386 runs were scored on the first day for the loss of 4 wickets from 88 overs. Quite how anyone can play cricket in this heat is beyond my comprehension. Today was the hottest day of the year so far in Galle and I cannot think of anywhere I have been where the conditions would have been more challenging. For once the thought of jumping into an ice bath doesn’t sound so terrifying, though perish the thought if you are reading this in a cold cricket ground in England.