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Shafiq hangs on with Sri Lanka on top


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Azhar Ali top-scored with 136 off 284 balls. -Photo by AFP

PALLEKELE: Pakistan's Azhar Ali smashed a second century in successive matches on Wednesday to leave the final Test against Sri Lanka poised for an intriguing finish.

Azhar made 136 as Pakistan wriggled out of a corner to post 299-8 in their second innings by stumps on the fourth day in Pallekele, a lead of 188 runs with two wickets in hand.

The tourists now have three sessions on the fifth day to conjure a series-levelling win on a wearing pitch that will offer some turn to prolific off-spinner Saeed Ajmal.

But Sri Lanka remain favourites to win or draw the match and clinch their first series victory in three years since beating New Zealand at home in 2009.

The hosts won the first Test in Galle by 209 runs before the second in Colombo was drawn.

Sri Lanka's South African coach Graham Ford conceded it was hard to predict how the Test will end.

“The way it has swayed back and forth over the four days, I don't think anyone can say what will happen tomorrow,” said Ford.

“The game is still pretty much even. Pakistan has a very good attack but we too will be confident of doing well on the last day. This is what makes Test cricket so exciting.”

Azhar, who made 157 in the Colombo Test, held the innings together for six hours, hitting 13 boundaries in his fourth Test century and the third this year.

The 27-year-old put on 94 for the second wicket with his overnight partner Mohammad Hafeez and 48 for the third with Younis Khan after Pakistan resumed the day at 27-1.

But the most crucial partnership came towards the end of the day when Asad Shafiq (55 not out) helped Azhar add 100 for the fifth wicket after Younis and skipper Misbah-ul Haq had departed quickly.

Fast bowler Dilhara Fernando and left-arm spinner Rangana Herath sparked a lower order collapse in the final hour as Pakistan slipped from a comfortable 276-4 to 299-8.

Fernando had Azhar caught behind and then claimed his 100th Test wicket by trapping Mohammad Sami leg-before.

Herath claimed Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal leg-before, but Shafiq saw out the day for Pakistan in the company of Adnan Akmal, who batted despite a hairline fracture in his left hand.

“It was disappointing to get out because Asad and myself had decided to see out the day,” said Azhar.

“But I am happy to get another century. I have batted well this year and want to make good use of my form.”

Azhar did not rule out a Pakistan win on Thursday.

“We have the bowlers to do the job for us,” he said.

“I think the total we have is good enough to defend.

“The wicket has slowed down, but there is still something in it for the bowlers.”

Hafeez, who also hit a century in Colombo, made 52 when he was dismissed just before lunch with Pakistan two runs away from wiping out the first innings deficit of 111 runs.

The Pakistan vice-captain edged a wild drive off Fernando to Tharanga Paranavitana in the slips.

Pakistan went to lunch at 119-2, in front by eight runs, after Younis had given his team the lead by tapping Angelo Mathews for a single to point.

Herath dismissed both Younis and Misbah and ended the day with 4-64.

Fernando finished with 3-65.

Comments (14) Closed

Tahir Ali Jul 11, 2012 01:18pm
Agree with you Mr Khan, However, I would not miss the apportunity to admire Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq for their splended performance with the bat. They showed how they can stay at the wicket. They both are so much talented and I have no doubt in saying that they both are the stars of the future of Pakistan cricket.
saleem khanzada Jul 11, 2012 02:09pm
everything has been point is that v need new tallent,v search the players and groam them.v have miandad in bating coach.waseem and waqqar in fast bowling department and mushtaque and saqlain in spin bowling department.most of them serving other countries.they earned the name and fame from pakistan and it is their national duty to serve the doubt money is important,pcb must offer them handsome package also.
S M khan Jul 11, 2012 01:09pm
This Pakistani team needs batsmen who can stay under pressure and face any challenge. Younis has to think very seriously about his future and if he can not remain consistent then he should consider his future in test cricket. Umar Gul is another disappointment in the last many series and needs hard practice at the nets and it do do him a lot of good if he is dropped for couple of matches. I also believe that Umar Taufiq should also be replaced and dropped from test and limited overs cricket. He is very inconsistent and getting old on the field. I think that PCB must seriously consider of rehabilitating Mohammed Amir into the team. He is probably one of the best attack bowler and should not be wasted sitting at home. Pakistan need to find a wicket keeper who is good behind the wicket and with gloves and also able to score runs under pressure and in normal circumstances. This team definitely needs many new faces and another point that should not be ignored is that with Misbh-ul -Haq getting old, we must train a new captain and also improve on our poor fielding.
Sri Lankan fan Jul 11, 2012 07:56pm
Pakistan has a great bowling line up and a mediocre batting line up. India has a great batting lineup and a mediocre bowling lineup. Sri lanka has a good (not great) batting line up and a good (great) batting lineup. Only England and SA have good bowlers and good batsmen.
zaffar nagi Jul 11, 2012 06:43pm
It is high time that the PCB board bring in new faces and retire all 30+ from all formats.
Share Khan Jul 11, 2012 02:45pm
Can someone please bring back Fawad Alam. Look at his record: Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 Tests 3 6 0 250 168 41.66 441 56.68 1 ODIs 27 25 9 603 64 37.68 817 73.80 0 What did he do so bad to be out of the Team while others with waco averages are in the team. They are ready to try a 32-33 old player instead of giving a run to this 26 year old player who can be with the team for an extended amount of time. He is a great fielder, something not that common in pakistan team
S M khan Jul 12, 2012 03:00pm
I am glad that Shafique scored his century and is improving with every game. The series was lost because of bad selection of some players. I am opinion that Sami is not a test bowler and has failed on many occasions and should consider his future in test cricket. He relies on the pace but not on his intelligence that has often resulted in giving away far too many runs.
Nadeem Mirza Jul 13, 2012 05:55pm
The only reason comes to my mind about is exclusion from the team is his off the field antics and activities otherwise Fawad Alam's test and ODI record are enough for his automatic selection. Hope he clean up his act now since he is a married guy now. But one of the best fielders and a competitor in the team. Hoping a praying that he finds a permanenet place in the team.
Ahmed Jul 11, 2012 02:33pm
The umpires throughout the series have been giving ALL 50/50 decisions AGAINST Pakistan. I dont konw why Stephan Davies hates Pakistan. Not giving Parnavitana, Sanga and two other out when Sri Lankans were playing and then changing this batsmen friendly stance when Pakistan came out for battting giving Taufeeq Umar and Muhammad Sami out...too bad.
omar Jul 11, 2012 05:18pm
I see no reason why Fawad Alam is not in the test squad!
Waqas Jul 11, 2012 02:58pm
well played Azhar and Asad pakistan must need another good batsman in the middle order and yes i agree with Mr. Khan Misbah and Younis should take some rest and leave the team for other young players who are waiting for that space and also Amir should be back for pakistan as we can not afford umar gul any more
S M khan Jul 12, 2012 02:33pm
I am glad that Shafique scored his century and is improving with every game. The series was lost because of bad selection of some players. I am opinion that Sami is not a test bowler and has failed on many occasions and should consider his future in test cricket. He relies on the pace but not on his intelligence that has often resulted in giving away far too many runs. I sincerely believe that this series should have been by Pakistan but more than anything our batsmen and pace attack and fielding failed us badly. I should hope that Pakistanis players, coach and management quickly learn a lesson from this defeated series and make changes in the team that would bring more success in the next series. I would like to repeat my previous assertion that Younis Khan is at the end of his tethers and increasingly becoming a disappointment with the bat. He is also not a good influence in the team when he should set an example to the younger players who should look upon him as the mentor. I would also drop Umar Gul who can not find his line and length and bowls too many wayward and no balls.
Nadeem Mirza Jul 13, 2012 06:17am
What a tremendous batting by Asad Shafiq in both innings. After a long time saw this responsible batting by a pakistani youngsters. Umar Akmal and Fawad Alam should also be given consistent opportunities in test and ODI. I see these along with, Azhar, Hafeez and Misbah could complete Pakistan batting. Younis should retire from all form, if they need another experience batsman then Mohammad Yousuf would be better choice. Sami, opener from U-19 should also be tried. It is amazing to see such an abundance of talent! Hope Mohammad Amir comes back and join Junaid Khan and Saeed Ajmal. However, we still need a good keeper batsmen (Adnan akmal is a good Keeper but not a great batsman, he will be exposed on seaming tracks. One more genuine fast bowler (sorry Sami is not counted and Umar Gul is totally out of form) is needed. Future looks promising and time has come to instill new blood. InshAllah we will be back on top in all formats. Miandad, Imran, Inzimam, Waseem and Waqar should spend sometime with these immensely talented battery of players.
Nadeem Mirza Jul 13, 2012 06:21am
Absoulutely right. Couldn't be a better time to get rid of the old and bring in the new blood. Seems like our young guns are ready with Azhar, Asad, Umar akmal, Fawad Alam, Hamad Azam, Junaid Khan, Sami (from under 19).Amir (praying for hs return in full senses) and there are at least few more waiting.