Paranavitana relieved to end wait for century

After four previous half-centuries, the Sri Lankan left-hander scored his first hundred in the five-day form of the game.

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GALLE, SRI LANKA // Tharanga Paranavitana was relieved to end his wait for a Test century yesterday as Sri Lanka dominated day one of the first Test yesterday. After four previous half-centuries, the left-hander scored his first hundred in the five-day form of the game and shared in a 181-run stand with another century-maker, Kumar Sangakkara, as Sri Lanka finished on 256 for two when play was called off for the day shortly after tea because of rain.

Paranavitana, 28, will resume today on 110 off 229 balls after stroking 12 boundaries. Mahela Jayawardene will be at the other end, not out on eight, at Galle International Stadium. With Thilan Samaraweera, who averages over 50, in next and the free-scoring Prasanna Jayawardene and Angelo Mathews to come, India will already be contemplating the prospect of having to save the game. "I concentrated a lot on scoring big hundreds in domestic cricket and I am happy that I was able to achieve it at home and against India," Paranavitana said.

Sangakkara was out for 103 - his 22nd Test century - caught by Sachin Tendulkar in the deep off Virender Sehwag. He faced 145 balls and hit 12 fours against an India attack missing Zaheer Khan and Shanthakumaran Sreesanth. The second wicket pair of Sangakkara and Paranavitana came together with the total on 55 when Sri Lanka lost Tillakaratne Dilshan (25), caught by MS Dhoni, the wicketkeeper, off Abhimanyu Mithun, the debutant seam bowler.

The match started one hour late because of a wet pitch due to overnight rain. India were hoping the pitch does not try out too quickly, otherwise it will play into the hands of Muttiah Muralitharan, the spin wizard who is playing the last Test of a career spanning 18 years. He needs eight wickets to become the first bowler to reach 800. Sharad Pawar, the president of the International Cricket Council, said Muralitharan had inspired a new generation of cricketers.

"He has rewritten the history book and created a mark that will be difficult to surpass," Pawar said. "Murali, a modest man, has also been an excellent role model and great ambassador throughout his career, playing the game with not only great skill but also great spirit." * AP