Karunaratne, Silva: the most unsuccessful opening partnership in Test cricket over the past 20 years

Sri Lanka’s opening partnership has been one of the most talked about topics during the ongoing Test series. Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva have struggled right throughout the series and have failed to register double figures even once in four partnerships of 6,0,5,2.

They struggled during the first two matches in England with partnerships of 10,10,10,38 before showing some form at Lords with scores of 108 and 45. Their troubles however began way before the England tour. Following are their partnerships starting with the series against Pakistan at home in June 2015:
Against Pakistan: 30,18,47, 15,12
Against India: 15,0,1,8
Against West Indies: 56, 1, 0 

In their first 17 innings together, they passed 30 on 13 occasions. However, in their last 22 partnerships, they have passed 50 just twice. They have failed to pass 15 on 15 occasions.

When compared to all opening partnerships in Test cricket over the past 20 years, Karunaratne and Silva have the worst average of all pairs that have scored over 1000 runs. As individual players, Karunaratne averages 32 after 30 test matches with 3 hundreds. Silva averages 29 after 29 tests with 2 hundreds. 

Given their promising start as an opening pair and the occasional individual highlights, selectors cannot be blamed for giving them an extended run. However, with the emergence of many promising young batsman, the time has come to look beyond this pair.

Roshen Silva, possibly the most consistent domestic and A-team batsman in the last 6 – 8 years, is one who can no longer be ignored. Milinda Siriwardena, after such a promising start to his Test career, is another player who deserved better than to be simply dropped from the Test team based on a few failures in T20 cricket. Charith Asalanka is another young player whom the selectors may not be able to keep out for much longer. While these players are not openers, Sri Lanka has the option of promoting Kusal Perera to open. Dhananjaya De Silva too has been a regular opening batsman for his club Tamil Union and is a contender.  Jayasudara, Dickwella and Gunathilake are others who have an opportunity to stake a claim.

Every cricketer who makes it to the highest level through years of hard work, commitment and sacrifice, deserve an extended run to prove themselves. Selectors have done fair by Karunaratne and Silva and given them all the opportunities to succeed. Unless they come up with a spectacular performance in the last inning of the on-going Test, they will be facing an extended break from Test cricket.

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