Sri Lanka have arguably found a new batting leader in Dimuth Karunaratne post the Mahela Jayawardene-Kumara Sangakkara era, and he has proved it with a few remarkably long innings recently. This was also the case during Sri Lanka's first day-night Test, against Pakistan in Dubai. He batted 405 deliveries for his 196 runs and was at the crease for 134 of Sri Lanka's 159.2 overs. He shared 50-plus partnerships with five of the first six wickets of the innings. Although none of his team-mates went on to make a century, Karunaratne's presence in the field helped Sri Lanka pile up an impressive 482 in the first innings.
The 196 against Pakistan was Karunaratne's highest in Tests and also the longest innings of his career. Over the last three years, he has played four innings of over 300 balls, which is the most among all openers in international cricket. He faced 363 balls against New Zealand in Christchurch in the 2014 Boxing Day Test, 354 balls against West Indies in Galle in 2015-16 and 307 balls against India earlier this year.
When the bar is raised to 350 balls, Karunaratne has three such innings. Of all the batsmen in the last three years, that is the most, jointly with Azhar Ali. Hashim Amla, Dinesh Chandimal, Alastair Cook and Steven Smith have faced that many deliveries twice.
Karunratne has faced an average of nearly 300 balls per century innings in his seven hundreds. In last three years, among all 22 players who have scored five or more centuries, only Cook and Azhar have higher ratio of balls per century innings.
The Sri Lanka opener has been prolific in 2017 - he averages nearly 50, and is the third-highest run-getter, after Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla, with 933 runs in 19 innings. Before this year he was averaging just 33.65 and had converted only four of his 14 fifties into hundreds. This year, he has converted three of his six fifties into hundreds. Of the three half-centuries, two are knocks of 97 and 93.
Against Pakistan on Saturday, Karunaratne completed 3000 Test runs and has already joined Sri Lanka's legends Sanath Jayasuriya and Marvan Atapattu as the only openers to reach the landmark in the country's history. Since Karunaratne's debut in November 2012, David Warner and Cook are the only other openers to aggregate over 3000 runs.