2017 in review: Karunaratne knocks Pakistan off their perch
Billy Remmington on a masterclass in endurance and self-denial that brought down a fortress.
Dimuth Karunaratne – 196 (405b, 19x4s, 1×6), 2nd Test v Pakistan, Dubai, 6-1- October
Coming into Sri Lanka’s two-match Test series in the UAE in October, Pakistan were yet to lose a ‘home’ series in their adopted stomping ground, a record spanning seven years and nine tours in total.
Sri Lanka had shaded the first Test by 21 runs, and the second match was another thriller, with Dimuth Karunaratne’s tone-setting innings ultimately proving pivotal. The knock was a marathon, a lesson in endurance and patience, with the shots the opener played paling in significance to the shots he didn’t. His masterful knock fell four short of a double century, and four minutes short of the nine-hour mark, providing the backbone for Sri Lanka’s first innings 482.
The full worth of this mammoth effort only became clear as the game went on; having declined to enforce the follow on, Sri Lanka’s second innings 96 was 100 short of Karunaratne’s individual contribution first time round, and opened the door for Pakistan, who faced a stiff but achievable fourth-innings target of 317 to maintain their proud UAE record.
At first they stumbled, slipping to 52-5, before Asad Shafiq (112) and Sarfraz Ahmed (68) dragged them back into contention, and then into pole position. But from 225-5, they collapsed again, and this time it was fatal, victory eventually sealed by 68 runs. Without Karunaratne, Sri Lanka would surely have lost.
It was an old-fashioned innings, displaying great skill as well as grit and stoicism, from a batsman who has quietly become one of the best in this format in the world.
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