Bowlers Star On Absorbing Day In Pallekele
Pakistan 226 (Shafiq 75, Perera 4-63) v
Sri Lanka 44-3 (Junaid Khan 2-15)
Third Test, Pallekele, day one
Following the high-scoring drawn second Test at Colombo when only 20 wickets fell over the course of the entire five days, the third Test at Pallekele could not have been much different. 13 wickets fell on the opening day alone as Sri Lanka’s captain Mahela Jayawardene stuck to his guns and again inserted Pakistan upon winning the toss. This time, though, it wasn’t so much of a gamble as his bowlers were greeted by a green-tinged pitch which had spent much of the previous 24 hours covered due to rain.
Indeed, Nuwan Kulasekara’s first ball showed a glimpse of what was in store for the visitors’ batsmen as he swung and seamed the first ball down the leg-side. Pakistan’s openers apparently decided that attack was the best form of defence in this situation and proceeded to play their shots, edging and hitting their way to 35 in the eighth over, before the inevitable first strike.
If Kulasekara was largely moving the ball into the right-hander, then Thisara Perera, at the other end, was moving the ball away. It was perhaps this that did for Mohammad Hafeez, who, faced with two deliveries that had held their line earlier in the over, played outside the line of one that didn’t deviate and lost his off-bail.
The two new batsmen didn’t last long, with Azhar Ali flashing a catch to gully without scoring, and Younis Khan edging one that held its line from Kulasekara through to Prasanna Jayawardene behind the stumps, also without a run to his name. When Taufeeq Umar played all round a straight one from Perera in the 16th over, Pakistan had slipped to 56 for four and looked as if they might implode.
Fortunately for them, captain Misbah-ul-Haq was joined at the crease by Asad Shafiq and the pair took the tourists to lunch on 81 for four. They continued after the break, taking the score well into three figures, before Misbah became Perera’s fourth victim with the score on 141. He followed a wide delivery from Perera into Jayawardene’s gloves and a fifth-wicket partnership of 85 was over after 33.4 overs.
Adnan Akmal arrived at the crease and dispatched Dilhara Fernando for a brace of boundaries before being forced to retire hurt after the 32 year-old had exacted his revenge by striking him on the ring finger of his left hand. He returned following the fall of Mohammad Sami for nine, but didn’t look settled and missed a sweep of Rangana Herath.
Through all this, Shafiq remained and made the most of some shorter offerings from Fernando to bring up his sixth Test fifty from 122 balls. Unfortunately, no-one was able to stay with him, with Umar Gul becoming the eighth man to depart, with the score on 217, after aiming a wild swipe across the line from a Nuwan Kulasekara delivery. Shafiq’s vigil ended in the very next over, as he gloved a snorter from Herath through to Prasanna Jayawardene. The last pair of Saeed Ajmal and Junaid Khan added nine more runs, but the innings ended when the former was trapped in front to give Herath his third wicket.
So, with Pakistan all out for 226 much relied on their bowlers to make the most of the new ball. And Junaid Khan certainly did that; removing Dinesh Chandimal and Kumar Sangakkara in the eighth over. Chandimal succumbed to one that didn’t swing following many that had, while Sangakkara’s first duck against Pakistan came three balls later when he missed a straight one from the same bowler.
Mohammad Sami brightened Pakistan’s day further before the close. He delivered a searing yorker to account for Mahela Jayawardene from what turned out to be the final ball of the day, and completed a day which had provided a thrilling advert for Test cricket following the turgidity at the SSC.
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