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29 November 2023

Sangakkara lifts Sri Lanka with 34th Test century

Sri Lankan batsman Kumar Sangakkara plays a shot during the first day of the second Test match between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka at The Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong on February 4, 2014. (AFP)


Kumar Sangakkara became the leading century-maker among active Test players as Sri Lanka bounced back strongly after a shaky start in the second Test against Bangladesh in Chittagong on Tuesday.

The tourists, who won the first Test by an innings and 248 runs in Dhaka last week, recovered from 49-2 to a comfortable 314-5 by stumps on the opening day at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury stadium.

Left-handed Sangakkara was unbeaten on 160, his 34th Test hundred that drew him level with retired Sunil Gavaskar and Brian Lara in the all-time list of century-makers.

The four above them -- Sachin Tendukar (51 centuries), Jacques Kallis (45), Ricky Ponting (41) and Rahul Dravid (36) -- are also not playing Test cricket.

Sangakkara, a 36-year-old veteran playing his 122nd Test, followed his 75 in the first Test with an impressive innings that has so far contained 19 boundaries and three sixes.

Senior pro Mahela Jayawardene helped close friend and long-time ally Sangakkara put on 178 for the third wicket after Sri Lanka were reduced to 49-2 soon after the first hour.

Jayawardene, who compiled an unbeaten 203 in the Dhaka Test, continued his good form with 72 before being leg-before to off-spinner Mohammad Mahmudullah in the final session.

Shakib Al Hasan removed Dinesh Chandimal and skipper Angelo Mathews before stumps as Sri Lanka slipped from 227-2 to 312-5, but were still in a good position after the opening day's play.

Chandimal said Sangakkara and Jayawardene were an inspiration for the entire team.

"They are wily old foxes and an inspiration for all," he said. "We can learn so much from them. They work hard during practice and they always talk about cricket even when they are off the field.

"This is not an easy wicket to bat on because the ball came really slow off it. It is important that when you get set, you definitely have to bat throughout the innings. And that is what Sangakkara did.

"We have to get as many runs as possible, because batting will be difficult in these conditions later."

Bangladesh, chasing a series-levelling win, were set for a long haul on the slow pitch after Sri Lanka won the toss and chose to bat.

But the hosts removed both openers in quick succession just after the drinks break to share the morning session which ended with Sri Lanka on 71-2.

Openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva managed just eight runs in the first eight overs and plodded to 30-0 after 15 when Bangladesh broke through.

Off-spinner Sohag Gazi, who shared the new ball with Al-Amin Hossain, claimed first Test century-maker Silva leg-before for 11.

Left-hander Karunaratne settled in to score 31 but then slashed at a wide ball from Al-Amin and was caught at point.

Sangakkara, who reached his half-century by lofting Mahmudullah for a six over mid-wicket, lit up proceedings further with three boundaries in one over from Gazi.

Sri Lanka went into the Test without frontline left-arm spinner Rangana Herath and seamer Shaminda Eranga, who were both ordered to return home due to injuries.

They were replaced by off-spinner Ajantha Mendis and paceman Nuwan Pradeep, the only changes from the side that won the first Test.

Bangladesh brought in batsman Imrul Kayes, all-rounder Mahmudullah and left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak in place of Marshall Ayub, Rubel Hossain and Robiul Islam.