Dhananjaya de Silva injury mars Sri Lanka progress as Dinesh Chandimal leads push

Source: Cricinfo

by SportsDiction – 26, December, 2020

1st Test, Centurion, Sri Lanka tour of South Africa, Sri Lanka 331/6(80 ov) (Chandimal 85, de Silva 79)

Dhananjaya de Silva cruised through the back half of the first session, finessed the first half of the second, but had his innings cruelly cut short by what seemed to be a serious injury, as he pulled up while running a quick single. He retired hurt on 79 off 105 balls, and had to be driven off the field in a buggy, then virtually carried up the steps to the dressing room.

Although Sri Lanka had an excellent second session if you go by the numbers – hitting 110 for no wicket to move themselves to a position of control on day one, the potential loss of de Silva may end up having the greater impact on the game. Not only is he a key batsman, Sri Lanka were also relying on his offspin. The other spinner in the XI – Wanindu Hasaranga – is on debut.

De Silva had begun his scoring with an imperious flick over midwicket, but it was his exquisite driving that defined the innings. Anrich Nortje was consistently in the 140kph-range, and occasionally breached 150, but de Silva was utterly unflustered by the pace, creaming a swinging Nortje ball through the covers early in his innings, before smoking him twice past mid on soon after lunch. He reached his fifty with the most effortless shot of them all – a square drive off Wiaan Mulder – and continued to prosper, his run rate continuously around 75.

Keshav Maharaj raised a strong lbw shout against him, but otherwise, de Silva dominated the spinner as well, flitting down the track to launch Maharaj over the long-on boundary the ball after he survived that appeal and subsequent review, which was shown to be umpire’s call.

His injury immediately looked serious, however. He was wincing as he pulled up while completing a quick single, and soon collapsed at the non-striker’s end. After several minutes of on-field treatment the decision was made to take him off, with Sri Lanka’s team manager later indicating he had sustained a thigh strain.

De Silva’s partner through much of his innings – Dinesh Chandimal – had had a much tougher start to his tour, though his innings was chanceless as well. His strike rate was barely breaching 30 at times, though he had managed to pull it up to 43 by the tea break.

While de Silva flayed the South Africa bowlers, Chandimal soaked up deliveries and put away the expansive shots, choosing only to punish the truly bad deliveries. That’s not to say there were no pretty shots – two driven boundaries off Nortje were eyecatching enough. But he ground himself to fifty, reaching the milestone just before the second session ended, whereas de Silva had sailed there.

It is possible that Sri Lanka batted with such aggression in the first two sessions that they were successful in hitting an inexperienced South Africa seam attack off their lines and lengths. Debutant Lutho Sipamla had a poor first spell in Test cricket, leaking 28 runs with the new ball in his first three overs. He improved in subsequent spells, but was still going at 6.22 after nine overs by tea. Neither Nortje, Lungi Ngidi, or Maharaj have been able to maintain economy rates of less than 3.5 either.

Sri Lanka’s positive approach had cost them in the morning. Each of Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Mendis and Kusal Perera had been out playing expansive strokes. But de Silva and Chandimal’s 131-run stand raised them up from 54 for 3.