Dinesh Chandimal (Left) and Dimuth Karunaratne have reasserted the belief that Sri Lanka can stand their ground in the new era © Getty Images
Dinesh Chandimal (Left) and Dimuth Karunaratne have reasserted the belief that Sri Lanka can stand their ground in the new era © Getty Images

Sri Lanka were battered and bruised at home by Pakistan and India. In light of that it was expected they would crumble without a fight in an away series against a well settled New Zealand team. But in a partnership, Dimuth Karunaratne and Dinesh Chandimal have proven that the Lankans have the ingredients for a fight even in tough, weary conditions. They came out to bat at a rather fragile period of play with the ball moving around and zipping past bats like mad bees hovering around a tube light. Yet, the batsmen displayed a type of calm and composure that took most by surprise. Live Cricket Scorecard: New Zealand vs Sri Lanka 2015-16, 1st Test at Dunedin

Sri Lanka have seemed to be on a downward spiral in the Test arena. The retirements of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene were always going to cause a big hole in the Sri Lankan batting line up, but it was prudent that Sri Lanka did not get sucked into that very void to become a plae impression of their former selves. For a while, it seemed like that misfortune was inevitable for Sri Lanka but in that partnership of 122 runs, they have shown that such an undesirable situation is avoidable. UPDATES: New Zealand vs Sri Lanka 2015-16, 1st Test at Dunedin, Day 2

New Zealand finished their innings at 431 and their bowlers smacked their lips as there was good amount of movement on offer and the prospect of a bag of wickets against an inexperienced Sri Lankan line-up loomed. Initial indicators were that their motives would be satiated easily. The young Kusal Mendis and Udara Jayasundera were dismissed cheaply and had Sri Lanka reeling at 29 for 2.

That is when Chandimal walked out to accompany opener Karunaratne at the crease. The duo have shown encouraging signs in the past but against the New Zealand bowlers cashing in on favourable conditions with their tails up, the challenge was greater. Their first aim was to play off the few remaining overs to the lunch break. They had their nervy moments but were successful.

The job was no where close to completion. The deficit was still big and a couple of wickets could have seen Sri Lanka in the embarrassing position of following on. But the batsmen played to the situation. They curbed their scoring as a compromise for greater solidity and did so effectively. The bowlers had their moments as did the batsmen. It was a fantastic contest; the kinds that make Test cricket exhilarating.

Later into the partnership when scoring became a little easier owing to the batsmen’s greater assessment of conditions coupled with the shining sun, they cashed in. Yet they did not get carried away. They batted on and even went past the tea break unbeaten to mark their stamp on at least one session.

Only after they added 122 runs, did New Zealand manage a breakthrough. Mitchell Santner, who bowled with patience and accuracy, was rewarded for his effort with the wicket of Karunaratne for 84. The partnership was broken, but it had reinvigorated the failing Sri Lankan spirit. It was a testimony to Sri Lanka’s ability to make an impact in alien conditions.

Sri Lanka finished the day at 197 for 4, still trailing by 234 runs and the threat of conceding a big first innings lead is still not averted. However, now at least there is the belief that it can be done. Importantly, one of the architects of that belief in this game is still at the crease. Chandimal went to stumps undefeated at 83.

He will be aware that if can inspire another big partnership, New Zealand will be on the backfoot. It is too early in the game to suggest  that Sri Lanka have a realistic chance of winning the game. But the encouraging aspect is that they are building a team with a stomach for fight and it harbours well for the future.

(Rishad D’Souza, a reporter with CricketCountry, gave up hopes of playing Test cricket after a poor gully-cricket career. He now reports on the sport. You can follow @RDcric on Twitter)