GALLE: Pakistan’s Abdullah Abdullah smashed his second Test hundred to put the tourists on course to accomplish a mammoth chase on day four of the opening Test against Sri Lanka in Galle on Tuesday.
Pakistan finished on 222-3 needing 120 runs to grab the lead in the two-Test series.
Sri Lanka had appeared to have the upper hand in the contest after they posted 337 in their second innings setting Pakistan a daunting target of 342.
Abdullah combined with Imam-ul-Haq (35) in an opening stand of 87 and later raised 101 with skipper Babar Azam (55) in a vastly improved batting display by the tourists who were skittled out for 218 in the first innings.
“He is one of the best players, so he provided good support while batting and guided me all along on how to play,” Abdullah, who called his ton a “special one”, said of captain Babar.
“So was not a good thing when he got out but now the responsibility lies on me.”
Left-arm spinner Prabath Jayasuriya bowled talisman Babar around the batter’s legs with a delivery that spun sharply from outside leg to rattle the stumps of the right-hander, who looked visibly shocked.
Wicket-keeper/batter Mohammad Rizwan was batting on seven at stumps alongside Abdullah, who had so far faced 289 balls and hit five boundaries and one six.
Pakistan began strongly with Abdullah and Imam’s partnership, but an alert stumping from wicket-keeper Niroshan Dickwella broke the stand.
The left-handed Imam missed a delivery from off-spinner Ramesh Mendis and Dickwella clipped off the bails, with the decision going up to the third umpire.
Various TV angles established that Imam’s foot was just millimetres off the ground when the bails were dislodged.
Azhar Ali was the next to go when he edged a ball from Jayasuriya, who claimed a five-wicket haul in the previous innings, to first slip. He made six off 32 deliveries.
Babar, who hit a defiant 119 in Pakistan’s first innings, then joined Abdullah as the two rebuilt the innings on a turning pitch.
Babar reached his fifty and two balls later Abdullah got his second Test hundred with a single off Maheesh Theekshana, raising his bat to a standing ovation from the dressing room.
“All of a sudden the wicket went flat... still we kept them under three runs and we did a marvellous job on that track,” Sri Lanka’s spin coach Piyal Wijetunga told reporters.
“We are still in the game. If we grab two wickets in the morning session we have a great chance of winning this game.”
Babar, who crossed 10,000 international runs on day two and averages over 45, went past 3,000 Test runs during another stubborn knock in which he hit Jayasuriya for a few boundaries and one six.
Abdullah also hit his only six against Jayasuriya and said things went to plan.
“We have just one plan in mind and that is to go after Jayasuriya,” said Abdullah.
“He has done well in the first innings and if we figure him out well here then we have a pretty good chance of batting well against them.”
Sri Lanka took the second new ball in the 81st over but the spinners kept up the attack in the tense final overs of the day.
In the morning, Sri Lanka resumed the day on 329-9 in their second innings.
Dinesh Chandimal was stranded on 94 when they were all out for 337.
SRI LANKA (1st Innings) 222 PAKISTAN (1st Innings) 218 SRI LANKA (2nd Innings, overnight 329-9): O. Fernando c Babar b Yasir 64 D. Karunaratne lbw b Nawaz 16 K. Rajitha lbw b Nawaz 7 K. Mendis b Yasir 76 A. Mathews c Babar b Nawaz 9 D. Chandimal not out 94 D. de Silva b Yasir 20 N. Dickwella b Nawaz 12 R. Mendis b Nawaz 22 M. Theekshana c Rizwan b Hasan 11 P. Jayasuriya b Naseem 4 EXTRAS (LB-1, NB-1) 2 TOTAL (all out, 100 overs) 337 FALL OF WICKETS: 1-33 (Karunaratne), 2-41 (Rajitha), 3-132 (Oshada), 4-164 (Mathews), 5-178 (Kusal), 6-218 (de Silva), 7-235 (Dickwella), 8-267 (R. Mendis), 9-308 (Theekshana) BOWLING: Shaheen 7-2-21-0, Nawaz 28-2-88-5, Salman 16-1-53-0, Yasir 29-2-122-3, Hasan 12-3-19-1, Babar 1-0-9-0, Naseem 7-0-24-1 (1nb) PAKISTAN (2nd Innings): Abdullah Shafique not out 112 Imam-ul-Haq st Dickwella b R. Mendis 35 Azhar Ali c de Silva b Jayasuriya 6 Babar Azam b Jayasuriya 55 Mohammad Rizwan not out 7 EXTRAS (B-4, LB-3) 7 TOTAL (for three wickets, 85 overs) 222 YET TO BAT: Salman Ali Agha, Mohammad Nawaz, Yasir Shah , Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah FALL OF WICKETS: 1-87 (Imam), 2-104 (Azhar), 3-205 (Babar) BOWLING: Rajitha 9-2-18-0, Jayasuriya 35-6-89-2, R. Mendis 26-0-76-1, Theekshana 11-2-29-0, de Silva 4-1-3-0
Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2022