Half-centuries by Dinesh Chandimal and Oshada Fernando helped Sri Lanka reach 315-6 at stumps on the opening day of the second Test match against Pakistan at the Galle International Stadium on Sunday.
Needing to win the game to square the series, Sri Lanka opted to bat first after winning the toss. Captain Dimuth Karunaratne and Fernando gave the team a solid start adding 92 runs for the first wicket.
Oshada Fernando shines
Fernando was the standout performer during the stand using his feet against spin and hitting three straight sixes. The third six brought his seventh half-century in Test match cricket. He was dismissed the very next ball, caught behind off the bowling of Mohammad Nawaz. Fernando's 50 came off 70 deliveries and included four fours and three sixes.
Later in the morning session, Pakistan struck with the last ball before lunch as Kusal Mendis (3) was run out backing up too far.
Captain Karunaratne was dismissed after lunch on 40 when he played an uncharacteristic reverse sweep off Yasir Shah and was superbly caught by Naseem Shah, who had to dive to ensure the dismissal.
A 75-run stand for the fourth wicket followed between former captains Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews taking Sri Lanka's total close to 200 runs.
Dominant Dinesh Chandimal
Chandimal was the more dominant partner hitting two sixes and nine fours as he went on to top score with 80 runs. Mathews was applauded before the day's play as he became the sixth Sri Lankan to feature in 100 Test matches. He was dropped when on 36 by Babar Azam at extra cover off the bowling of Nauman Ali. The reprieve didn't cost Pakistan as Mathews soon nicked one to the wicketkeeper much to the joy of Nauman. He made 42.
Chandimal, who posted twin half-centuries in the first Test and a double hundred prior to that in the second Test against Australia, all in Galle, was cruising and looked set to post a century when a lapse of concentration saw him throw his wicket away.
He stepped out and attempted a wild slog against the turn off Nawaz but ended up getting a thick edge and was caught at backward point.
Chandimal has been in terrific form this year having scored 698 runs in nine innings at an average of 116. He has two hundreds, including a career best 206 not out and four half-centuries in 2022.
Naseem Shah, armed with the second new ball, went through Dhananjaya de Silva's (33) defence. Two balls later, Niroshan Dickwella was dropped by Babar at second slip. He finished the day unbeaten on 42 off 43 deliveries with five fours and one six while Dunith Wellalage was on six at stumps.
Both teams made two changes for the game. Pakistan took a tough decision to leave out their former captain Azhar Ali while Shaheen Afridi was ruled out with a knee injury. They were replaced by Fawad Alam and Nauman Ali.
Sri Lanka handed a Test debut to 19-year-old schoolboy Dunith Wellalage and recalled Asitha Fernando to replace Maheesh Theekshana and Kasun Rajitha.
Pakistan leads the two-match series 1-0 having won the first Test by four wickets. The tourists chased down a record 342-run target with opening batsman Abdulah Shafeeq starring with an unbeaten 160, coming up with an eight-and-a-half-hour marathon batting session.
The second Test was scheduled for Colombo but was shifted to the southern coastal town due to political unrest in the capital.