Pakistan sense victory despite top-order wobble in 131-run chase

Published July 20, 2023
Pakistan’s Imam-ul-Haq dives to take a catch to dismiss Sri Lankan batter Dinesh Chandimal during the first Test at the Galle International Stadium on Wednesday.—AFP
Pakistan’s Imam-ul-Haq dives to take a catch to dismiss Sri Lankan batter Dinesh Chandimal during the first Test at the Galle International Stadium on Wednesday.—AFP

GALLE: Pakistan remained on course for victory in the rain-hit opening Test against Sri Lanka despite a top-order wobble chasing a meagre victory target of 131 at Galle on Wednesday.

Babar Azam’s side had been in charge after claiming a handy first-innings lead of 149 in the first match of the two-Test series.

Their spin trio of Noman Ali (3-75), Abrar Ahmed (3-68) and Salman Ali Agha (2-39) further consolidated their position by bowling out Sri Lanka for 279 in their second innings despite a stubborn 82 by first-innings centurion Dhananjaya de Silva.

Pakistan finished day four on 48-3 and will need 83 runs when play resumes on Thursday to go 1-0 up in the series.

Babar was batting on six with opener Imam-ul-Haq on 25 at the other end.

Sri Lanka’s left-arm spinner Prabath Jayasuriya dismissed Abdullah Shafique, caught behind for eight, and Shan Masood and then ran out nightwatchman Noman Ali on nought to at least prevent it from being a cakewalk for Pakistan.

“Ideally, we should have had another 100 runs more on the board but since the first innings lead [by Pakistan] we were always playing catch up cricket,” Sri Lanka assistant coach Naveed Nawaz told reporters. “If we can get another two-three wickets without conceding too many runs tomorrow it could turn out to be a good contest.”

Left-armer Noman, Abrar and Agha Salman, who took two wickets, struck regular blows in Sri Lanka’s second innings. Pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi snared another two to help clean up the tail.

Sri Lanka resumed with the overnight score of 14 and Abrar struck with his leg spin to send back Dimuth Karuna­rat­ne for 20 to check their brisk start.

Nishan Madushka (52) went on to post a half-century but was dismissed soon after lunch. De Silva, who scored 122 in Sri Lanka’s first-innings total of 312, hit two straight sixes off Noman to help Sri Lanka take the lead but there was little support from rest of the batters.

Sri Lanka’s batting had also collapsed in the first innings, where they lost four wickets for 54 runs before de Silva rescued them with his 10th century.

Salman sent back Dinesh Chandimal for 28 to break a 60-run stand with de Silva and then Samarawickrama for 11 to put Sri Lanka in trouble, but De Silva stood firm.

De Silva, who hit 10 fours and two sixes, found an able partner in off-spinner Ramesh Mendis (42) as they added 76 runs for the seventh wicket. Abrar broke the stand when he had Mendis ruled out leg before wicket.

Soon, Pakistan took the new ball and Afridi claimed two wickets in successive overs, including de Silva caught behind with a rising delivery, to ensure Sri Lanka didn’t stage a late recovery.

Batsman Saud Shakeel has remained the star for Pakistan so far with his unbeaten first-innings 208 — his maiden Test double century — in his team’s 461 all out on day three.

Shakeel’s marathon knock handed Pakistan a handy lead as rain interrupted play on the first three days.

Rain stayed away on day four, which started late due to a damp patch on the field.

Since January 2022, Pakistan have played in 11 Tests and have won only one. That victory came in Galle.

Scoreboard

SRI LANKA (1st Innings) 312 (D. de Silva 122; Shaheen 3-86, Naseem 3-90, Abrar 3-68)

PAKISTAN (1st Innings) 461 (Saud Shakeel 208 not out, R. Mendis 5-136)

SRI LANKA (2nd Innings, overnight 14-0):

N. Madushka c Sarfraz b Nauman 52

D. Karunaratne c Salman b Abrar 20

K. Mendis lbw b Nauman 18

A. Mathews c Babar b Nauman 7

D. Chandimal c Imam b Salman 28

D. de Silva c Sarfraz b Shaheen 82

S. Samarawickrama c Abdullah b Salman 11

R. Mendis lbw b Abrar 42

P. Jayasuriya c Shan b Shaheen 10

V. Fernando not out 0

K. Rajitha c Shan b Abrar 5

EXTRAS (LB-1, NB-1, W-2) 4

TOTAL (all out, 83.1 overs) 279

FALL OF WICKETS: 1-42 (Karunaratne), 2-79 (K.Mendis), 3-91 (Mathews), 4-99 (Madushka), 5-159 (Chandimal), 6-175 (Samarawickrama), 7-251 (R.Mendis), 8-269 (de Silva), 9-274 (Jayasuriya)

BOWLING: Shaheen 13-0-64-2 (1w), Naseem 12-2-32-0 (1w), Salman 9-0-39-2, Abrar 24.1-5-68-3, Noman 25-5-75-3 (1nb)

PAKISTAN (2nd Innings):

Abdullah Shafique c S’wickrama b Jayasuriya 8

Imam-ul-Haq not out 25

Shan Masood c Madushka b Jayasuriya 7

Nauman Ali run out (Mendis) 0

Babar Azam not out 6

EXTRAS (LB-2) 2

TOTAL (for three wickets, 15 overs) 48

STILL TO BAT: Saud Shakeel, Sarfraz Ahmed, Salman Ali Agha, Abrar Ahmed, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah

FALL OF WICKETS: 1-16 (Abdullah), 2-36 (Shan), 3-38 (Nauman)

BOWLING: Fernando 2-1-6-0, Mendis 7-1-23-0, Jayasuriya 6-0-17-2

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2023

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