“There is no (Kumar) Sangakkara and Mahela (Jayawardene) so we have to put our hands up and play big knocks,” Karunaratne said in a televised interview after he made a patient 84 in Sri Lanka’s 197 for four at the close of play at University Oval in Dunedin of the second day.
“We have to play with the youngsters and hang on with them, rotate the strike and try to get a big one and (for me) to play a senior role.”
Unfortunately Mendis and Jayasundera were unable to put that advice into action, with the side slumping to 29-2 before the opener combined with fellow ‘veteran’ Dinesh Chandimal, also playing his 24th test, to patiently rebuild Sri Lanka’s innings.
The opening batsman, who had a previous reputation as a dashing player who needlessly gave his wicket away chasing the shot that was not quite on, buckled down with Chandimal and thwarted, then frustrated, New Zealand’s attack.
He took 136 deliveries to reach his sixth test half century, though it was brought up with a elegant straight drive off Neil Wagner for his fifth boundary.
After tea he had looked set to secure his fourth test century but he fell tantalisingly close and it was something of a surprise given the way he had blunted the efforts of New Zealand’s disciplined four-pronged pace attack.
Having resisted temptation for so long, he sat back and looked to punch a wide delivery from left arm spinner Mitchell Santner behind point, only for the ball not to turn and he succeeded in giving BJ Watling the third of his four catches in the innings.
The dismissal ended his 122-run partnership with Chandimal, who was left 83 not out with Sri Lanka 197-4 at the close and will now need to take on the mantle left by Karunaratne to ensure his side continue to chip away at the home side’s 431.
“I did all the hard work in the first few overs and unfortunately I didn’t get to bat through the innings and get a big one,” Karunaratne added.
“I missed out on a golden opportunity.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)