Fidel & Danny ‘String Together’ Melodious Accounts of Day One at the Galle Test Match

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.


Sri Lanka lost those batters, plus Angelo Mathews (playing his 100th Test), late in the day. Nevertheless, they finished 386 for 4 – poised for a massive total, with plenty of batting still to come and the track yet to take serious turn. Having lost the toss, then having claimed just one wicket in the first session, Ireland were perhaps always going to be in for some toil.
Their bowlers, though, did not quite wither in Sri Lanka’s scorching April heat either. Legspinner Ben White went at more than five an over, but snaffled the wicket of Mathews in the second half of the evening session. Left-arm spinner George Dockrell was almost as expensive, but broke the big stand by getting Mendis lbw with a delivery that slid on with the arm.
Curtis Campher had struck with the newish ball to nick off Nishan Madushka in the morning. And Mark Adair claimed the biggest wicket of the day, having Karunaratne flash at and edge a wide one, with the second new ball.
It was offspinner Andy McBrine who put in the biggest shift, however, delivering 27 overs and conceding just 107. He’d had a slightly shaky start, conceding three boundaries off his first 15 deliveries, but recovered to bowl some tighter spells, though he did frequently get picked off for singles as Ireland incrementally relaxed their fields. All up, the spinners bowled 61 of Ireland’s 87 overs on the first day.
Where Madushka was troubled by Campher and Adair’s early spells, Karunaratne was more-or-less immediately fluent. He was severe on errors of length, whipping too-full deliveries through midwicket, and pulling short balls just as effectively. After the first 11 overs, he’d already strode to 28 off 32.
Ireland didn’t keep their tight fields to him for long. Eventually they gave him single options, particularly with the spinners in operation. Karunaratne played masterful, risk-free cricket from then on, finding runs in every direction.
His favourite deep-midwicket boundary got a peppering. But as is often the case for him, it was the singles, and twos, plus a three, that formed the bedrock of his big innings. He got to fifty off the 69th ball he faced, though he’d scored only 20 of those runs via boundaries. He progressed almost casually to a fifteenth Test ton, taking only 70 further deliveries to make that second fifty, and yet having hit only two further boundaries in that time. For the majority of his innings, he appeared utterly immovable.
Mendis delighted a little more in hitting out. The pull was an especially productive shot for him, as he frequently went deep in his crease to pummel even slightly-short deliveries from the spinners in front of square. The cover drive was also a major provider of boundaries.
He struggled occasionally against White early on – one legbreak ripping past his outside edge, another taking the edge and running fine. But before long, Mendis’ progress was also largely smooth. He wasn’t quite as adept at picking the gaps as Karunaratne, so despite the boundaries, his strike rate was never as good. But he reached fifty with his most memorable stroke – a run-down-the-pitch six over long on against McBrine.
Mendis waited on errors through much of the second session – one of almost ludicrously smooth progress for Sri Lanka, and brought up his eighth Test century the first over after tea, having just ramped an Adair bouncer through third man for four. The hundred came off 152 deliveries.
The evening proved more fruitful for Ireland, fatigue having caught up with the batting pair, perhaps. Mendis went down to sweep and missed what was essentially a straight one from Dockrell, though there was some dip on that delivery as well. He burned a review on his way out.
Mathews then failed to get off the mark in his 100th Test, edging a short and wide delivery from White behind, third ball. And Karunaratne then lunged at a full wide ball from Adair in the 85th over, giving the bowler some reward for some earnest spells through the course of the day.
Sri Lanka went to stumps with Dinesh Chandimal and nightwatcher Prabath Jayasuriya at the crease.


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.

Hodi Heleyi Heleiyyah 
Hodi Heliyi Heleiyyah  
.…. first line in Sri Lankan fisshermen’s net-pulling work ditty
THAT, …. Danny ….  is the working spirit required in Sri Lankan playing conditions

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One response to “Fidel & Danny ‘String Together’ Melodious Accounts of Day One at the Galle Test Match

  1. David Wei

    A good warm up for SL before their next series ..against Vanuatu? No, it will be against the Maldives. That will be a close match, looking forward to it.

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