Yorkshire CCC: Dimuth Karunaratne adds leadership quality at top of White Rose batting order

HOT on the heels of victory in their opening County Championship match of the season, Yorkshire have strengthened their batting department in a further statement of intent by the club.

By Chris Waters
Wednesday, 20th April 2022, 6:45 am
Sri Lanka's captain Dimuth Karunaratne cuts through the off side against the West Indies in Galle last November. Picture: ISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images
Sri Lanka's captain Dimuth Karunaratne cuts through the off side against the West Indies in Galle last November. Picture: ISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images

Dimuth Karunaratne, the Sri Lanka captain and left-handed opener, has joined for the next three Championship games.

He will debut tomorrow – his 34th birthday – against Northamptonshire at Wantage Road and will also play in the subsequent fixtures against Kent at Headingley and Essex at Chelmsford.

Yorkshire hope to have Joe Root available from the Kent game too; things are looking up for the White Rose club.

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Sri Lanka's captain Dimuth Karunaratne Picture: Nigel French/PA

Karunaratne, who tweeted a smiling picture of himself on a plane bound for England while making a thumbs-up sign, is another high-quality overseas import to follow that of Haris Rauf, the Pakistan pace bowler, who took six wickets on debut in the victory at Gloucestershire.

He is sixth in the world Test rankings – only Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson, Root himself and Babar Azam are above him – and has scored 5,620 runs in 76 Tests at a lick under 40 with 14 hundreds.

How Yorkshire utilise Karunaratne remains to be seen; George Hill opened with Adam Lyth in the six-wicket win in Bristol, and Hill hit 71 from that position in last year’s game at Northants, his highest first-class score.

James Wharton, who debuted at Gloucestershire, looks set to make way at Wantage Road, the 21-year-old having come into a side missing two of its best and most experienced batsmen in Gary Ballance, owing to the fallout of the racism affair, and Tom Kohler-Cadmore, still recovering from the effects of concussion.

Yorkshire interim managing director of Cricket, Darren Gough Picture: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Although financially challenged after recent events, Yorkshire are leaving no stone unturned in an effort to prosper this summer, with Karunaratne their fourth overseas capture alongside Rauf and specialist T20 signings Shadab Khan, the Pakistan all-rounder, and Finn Allen, the New Zealand batsman.

Darren Gough, the Yorkshire interim managing director of cricket, said: “We are delighted that Dimuth will be joining us for the next three Championship games. He has proven himself to be an exceptional leader for Sri Lanka and is a tremendous Test match batter.

“It can only benefit the lads in our changing rooms to have a player of his quality, and I’m sure they will all get a lot from it. I’m confident he will contribute runs and enjoy his time at Yorkshire.”

It will be Karunaratne’s first taste of county cricket and he arrives in fine form. He made centuries last month in both of his most recent first-class outings: 107 in a Test match against India in Bengaluru, and 125 not out for Colombo against Galle in the National Super League 4-Day Tournament.

PACKED WITH POTENTIAL: Pakistan's Haris Rauf is tipped to perform well for Yorkshire this season. Picture: Jon Super/PA

Karunaratne has scored exactly 13,500 first-class runs at 46.55 with 44 hundreds and a highest of 244 for Sri Lanka against Bangladesh at Pallekele in April last year. He has also played 34 one-day internationals, debuting against England at Old Trafford in 2011.

If Karunaratne, like Rauf, can hit the ground running, then Yorkshire and their members and fans will be happy.

Although expensive in the first innings in Bristol, where he took 3-81 from 16 overs, Rauf was more economical in the second innings when his figures were 3-96 from 27 overs. He certainly bowled with eye-catching pace.

“Haris needs this (county cricket) at this stage of his career, and it’s a great chance for him to learn and improve,” said Gough of the 28-year-old, whose Yorkshire debut was just his fifth first-class appearance.

“He’s mainly played one-day stuff and he’s really good at that; he’s one of the best at it. But he wants to be a Test cricketer, too, and this is a perfect opportunity to be bowling with a red ball and to show how good he is.

“He’s raw – he reminds me a little bit of myself when I first started, a bit all over the shop at times, but when he gets it right, he’ll go bang, bang, bang.

“You need a strike bowler like that in any team. We’ve already got a good bowling attack, guys who can control the momentum of the game, but you also need that strike bowler, and when you’ve got somebody who can bowl 150 it makes a real difference – not least when it comes to knocking over the tail.”

Rauf is available for the first six Championship games and Gough added: “There will be one game, hopefully two, when he’ll run through a team. I honestly believe that.

“There’ll be one or two games in this set of six when he’ll either knock over a quick five, or he’ll end up with a real big haul in one match at least.”

Gough quipped, in trademark fashion, “Let’s hope it’s against Lancashire.”