GALLE: Pakistan skipper Babar Azam said on Thursday his team’s latest Test hero Saud Shakeel had stepped up his game and showcased new shots in his match-winning unbeaten 208 against Sri Lanka.
The visitors won the first Test in Galle by four wickets after opener Imam-ul-Haq hit an unbeaten 50 to anchor a tricky chase of 131 on the final day to lead the two-match series 1-0.
But left-handed batsman Saud was the star after his maiden Test double century powered Pakistan to 461 all out and a handy first-innings lead of 149.
His 177-run partnership with Salman Ali Agha, who hit 83, helped Pakistan bounce back from 101-5 in their reply to Sri Lanka’s 312.
“When you win the match, you gain confidence,” Babar said after Pakistan collected the 12 points on offer for the win in the new World Test Championship cycle.
“Credit to the boys and the youngsters. Saud has improved a lot. He has been working hard after the New Zealand series,” he added of the man-of-the-match.
“He attended two camps in Lahore and Karachi. I spoke with him and he told me he had developed a few shots which he applied in this innings.
“As captain, I am very satisfied with his performance. When he came to bat we had lost four wickets and Saud and Salman built the partnership.
“Saud was unbelievable … the way he absorbed the pressure was superb. His effort helped us to get ahead of the game. Very satisfied with the way he went about things. Galle is not an easy wicket to bat but he made it look easy. I wish him luck for the next match.”
Babar added: “When your team-mate performs well and your team wins the match it gives a lot of confidence, especially in different conditions, and youngsters like Saud, Salman and Abrar Ahmed stepped up and performed.”
Saud looked assured in his stroke-making in his marathon knock and then a cameo of 30 on the fifth day.
Pakistan spinners Noman Ali and Abrar took three wickets each and Salman chipped in with two from his off-spin to bowl Sri Lanka out for 279 on day four.
Dhananjaya de Silva stood out for Sri Lanka with his 122 in the first innings and then 82 in the second but the rest of the batting faltered.
Skipper Dimuth Karunaratne acknowledged their batting had flopped.
“In this match, all our main batters didn’t make runs,” Karunaratne told reporters. “Usually two-three batters performed in the top seven, but apart from Dhananjaya’s contribution there was nothing big from the rest.
“We have to learn from Dhananjaya,” Karunaratne added. “He showed how to bat when the bowling is on top. If someone had taken responsibility and hung around with him, we could have posted decent totals. To win the toss and not to score big when conditions were best for batting was so disappointing.
“Overall, the bowlers did well, but we dropped a few catches and that cost us. We have to assess what went wrong and come back again.”
IMAM ANCHORS NERVY CHASE
Pakistan started the day on 48-3, needing 83 more runs and with memories of the 2009 Test at Galle. That’s when the visitors needed 97 runs with eight wickets in hand chasing a target of 168 and were bowled out for 117.
Babar came out roaring, hitting a boundary off the first ball of the day as he combined with Imam for 41 runs for the fourth wicket. The run chase looked a mere formality, but Prabath Jayasuriya, who claimed 4-56 in the second innings, trapped the captain for 24.
Imam combined with Saud to steady the ship but Sri Lanka refused to throw in the towel despite not having enough runs to defend. The duo shared 43 runs for the fifth wicket before off-spinner Ramesh Mendis had Saud caught behind.
Pakistan needed only nine more runs and Jayasuriya claimed his fourth wicket of the innings when Sarfraz Ahmed, attempting to sweep, was caught at backward square leg by Kusal Mendis.
But Imam was immovable, making 50 from 84 deliveries, hitting four fours and one six in his 11th Test fifty.
Agha Salman walked in at the fall of the sixth wicket with Pakistan needing four runs and secured victory in style by depositing Jayasuriya over long-off for six.
The teams move to Colombo for the second and final Test beginning on Monday.
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) 279 (D. de Silva 82; Nauman 3-75, Abrar 3-68)
PAKISTAN (2nd Innings, overnight 48-3)
Abdullah Shafique c S’wickrama b Jayasuriya 8
Imam-ul-Haq not out 50
Shan Masood c Madushka b Jayasuriya 7
Nauman Ali run out (Mendis) 0
Babar Azam lbw Jayasuriya 24
Saud Shakeel c S’wickrama b Mendis 30
Sarfraz Ahmed c Mendis b Jayasuriya 1
Salman Ali Agha not out 6
EXTRAS (B-4, LB-3) 7
TOTAL (for six wickets, 32.5 overs) 133
DID NOT BAT: Abrar Ahmed, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-16 (Abdullah), 2-36 (Shan), 3-38 (Nauman), 4-79 (Babar), 5-122 (Saud)), 6-127 (Sarfraz)
BOWLING: Fernando 2-1-6-0, Mendis 14-1-62-1, Jayasuriya 14.5-0-56-4, De Silva 2-1-2-0
RESULT: Pakistan won by four wickets.
SERIES: Pakistan lead the two-match series 1-0.
UMPIRES: Alex Wharf (England) and Rod Tucker (Australia)
TV UMPIRE: Chris Gaffaney (New Zealand)
MATCH REFEREE: David Boon (Australia)
Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2023