Dimuth Karunaratne could hardly have asked for a best start to his career as Sri Lanka Test match captain than the events that unfolded on the opening day of the Castle Lager Test Series against the Standard Bank Proteas at Kingsmead on Wednesday.
He started by winning an important toss under conditions that assisted both swing and seam and was rewarded by his largely rookie bowling attack that dismissed the Proteas inside 60 overs.
He then played an important role in blunting the Proteas new ball attack before bad light forced Faf du Plessis to switch to an all-spin attack but still resulted in a slightly early finish. In the process he reached the landmark of 4 000 Test match runs.
The result was that the visitors finished on 49/1 in reply to the Proteas 235 all out to take the advantage into day two.
The only thing that could slightly have disappointed him was the rate at which they allowed the Proteas to score their runs (between 3.5 and 4 to the over) with 27 boundaries being struck in addition to a six for nearly half of the total.
It was to be expected to some extent by the inexperience of the attack with the three main bowlers supporting the experienced Suranga Lakmal coming into the game with only 7 international caps between them.
Lakmal, in spite of only getting one wicket, led the attack superbly with his best support coming from the left-arm swing of Vishwa Fernando who finished with career best figures of 4/62 in 17 overs.
It just wasn’t to be the Proteas day and they looked off the pace most of the time. They got off to a bad start, losing Dean Elgar without a run on the ball and suddenly finding themselves 17/3 with Fernando taking two of them including probably the ball of the day to bowl Aiden Markram.
In addition to his four wickets, Fernando was also indirectly responsible for the run out of Temba Bavuma when he deflected a straight drive from Quinton de Kock back on to the non-striker’s wicket with the batsman just short of his ground.
This was probably the critical moment of the day as Bavuma had once again looked the man for the crisis, combining in a 72-run fourth-wicket stand with Du Plessis. Bavuma (47 off 66 balls, 7 fours) had batted with composure and assurance up to that stage and looked set for another major partnership with De Kock.
But it was not to be and De Kock once again had to marshal the lower order, being last man out for 80 (94 balls, 8 fours and a six). In the process he managed to get a total of 104 runs out of the support he got from the lower order for the last four wickets.
It is an issue that the Proteas need to address as De Kock, being left without a specialist batting partner, is leaving a lot of runs out there that his team needs.
Dale Steyn struck the one blow for the Proteas with the ball, moving joint level with Indian legend, Kapil Dev, on the list of all-time wicket-takers into joint eighth place.