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Late Strikes Hamper Sri Lankan Progress

Azhar Ali, Saeed Ajmal, Misbah-ul-Haq
Saeed Ajmal (centre) took two wickets late on as Pakistan fought back against Sri Lanka
©REUTERS / Action Images

Sri Lanka 220-5 (Sangakkara 52) v Pakistan
Third Test, Sharjah, day one

Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal took two wickets late on the opening day of the third and final Test in Sharjah as Sri Lanka closed on 220 for five.

Kumar Sangakkara (52) and Mahela Jayawardene (47) were putting the Sri Lankans into a good position but after Sangakkara was removed by Junaid Khan, Ajmal struck to dismiss Jayawardene and Dinesh Chandimal (11) to ensure the honours were shared on the day.

Sri Lanka, leading the series 1-0 following a nine-wicket win in Dubai, handed a debut to Dilruwan Perera (replacing Nuwan Pradeep) and needed the 60-run stand between Sangakkara and Jayawardene to help them recover from a shaky start.

Pakistan selected fast bowler Mohammad Talha in place of Rahat Ali, left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman instead of Bilawal Bhatti and batsman Azhar Ali as Mohammad Hafeez was left out.

It was Talha, playing his first Test and appearing in international cricket for the first time since September 2010, who took the first wicket when Kaushal Silva was caught by wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed, who only seemed to appeal as an afterthought.

Silva's opening partner Dimuth Karunaratne was next to go for 34 when he was caught by Younus Khan off Rehman, trying to drive but only succeeding in getting a thick edge.

Sangakkara and Jayawardene, among Sri Lanka's most experienced and prolific partnerships, added runs in good time until Sangakkara's dismissal shortly before tea set them back.

The left-hander had made 52 in 103 balls before he rather tamely flicked Junaid into the hands of Khurram Manzoor at midwicket; the fielder having been placed there for exactly that sort of shot.

Jayawardene almost joined Sangakkara in making a half-century but didn't quite get there. It took an excellent catch by Azhar at short leg to remove him after he tried to push Ajmal away.

Had there been no further wickets, it would arguably have been Sri Lanka's day but Chandimal made just 11 before dancing down the track and playing a shot that would have elicited strong reactions in the dressing room in a Twenty20 game, never mind a Test match - caught at midwicket by Asad Shafiq to gift Ajmal a second wicket.

Sri Lanka, through Angelo Mathews (24 not out in 90 balls) and Prasanna Jayawardene (28 not out in 60) pretty much shut up shot following that wicket to take them past the 200-run mark on an occasionally slow-moving (by modern standards) but intriguing day of Test cricket.

© Cricket World 2014