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Azhar Ali fashions a thrilling win for Pakistan against Sri Lanka to level series 1-1

Azhar Ali scored the most fabulous ton to ensure Pakistan register a thrilling win against Sri Lanka in the third and final Test © AFP
Azhar Ali scored the most fabulous ton to ensure Pakistan register a thrilling win against Sri Lanka in the third and final Test © AFP

Jan 20, 2014

Pakistan pulled of a sensational win courtesy of Azhar Ali’s hundred against Sri Lanka in the third and final Test match at Sharjah to level the series 1-1.

Having set a daunting 302 to win from 59 overs, Sri Lanka looked all set to wrap a Test series win away from  home.

The writing was on the wall when Pakistan lost openers Khurram Manzoor and Ahmed Shehzad—both perishing while trying to accelerate the proceedings and pacer Suranga Lakmal was on song.

The rookie Sri Lankan pacers have given a very good account of themselves in this series so far; bowling a tidy line and getting wickets at regular intervals. The absence of a rejuvenated Nuwan Pradeep, however did hurt the Island nation badly in this encounter at Sharjah.

Pakistan’s number three, Azhar Ali, another comeback man went about piercing the field in his typical nonchalance that had the purists in ecstasy when he broke in the Test scene four years ago while elder statesman Younis Khan laboured to 29 before holding out Kumar Sangakkara off the bowling of Angelo Mathews. At the moment, the Sri Lankan Captain can’t put a foot wrong even if he wanted to.

Heading to lunch at 107 for three, it looked certain that the Sri Lankans had done enough to coast to a series win. The stand-by keeper Sarfaraz Ahmed, with his strokemaking abilities instilled a new sense of belief in the Pakistan ranks that the warn-torn nation could well go on to win the game. The ever reliable Rangana Herath was mauled in this outing and from a near improbable position, Pakistan jumped right back in the battle and a chase was definitely on.

After a blistering 48, the fearless Ahmed was caught behind off the bowling of Shaminda Eranga.

This brought Pakistan’s classy sipper and go-to man for all seasons and formats, Misbah-ul-Haq at the crease. With minimal risks he rotated the strike with Azhar to ensure that Pakistan didn’t fall behind the asking run rate and at the same time the ensured that their application at the crease, that has epitomised their careers so far, was intact.

The boundaries were few and far between but the ease at which the Pakistan duo went about with their business started to spread panic in the Sri Lankan ranks. Misbah had breezed to a half-century with just three boundaries and Azhar Ali was in no mood to let go, looking set for a big score.

Azhar soon brought up his hundred but soon perished with less than ten runs needed. It was a moment which defined Pakistan’s urge to win the match as Ali charged off to the pavillion, so as to ensure Pakistan do not lose much time.

Defensive fields and the bowling looking a pale shadow of the spunk that they had shown in the first two Tests, Sri Lanka certainly did not see this coming and in a way created their own downfall.

It certainly was a topsy-turvy swing in fortunes, the unreliable Pakistan top order rallied to chase a total that was more than five runs per over, a first in Test match history and the otherwise reliable Rangana Herath torn to smithereens and ending wicketless. Certainly a one of a kind run chase indeed.

Brief scores:

Sri Lanka 428 for 9 decl. (Kumar Sangakkara 52, Angelo Mathews 91, Dilruwan Perera 95; Junaid Khan 3 for 81, Mohammad Talha 3 for 99) and 214 (Mahela Jayawardene 46, Prasanna Jayawardene 49; Abdur Rehman 4 for 56, Saeed Ajmal 3 for 53, Mohammad Talha 3 for 65) lost to Pakistan 341 (Ahmed Shehzad 147, Misbah-ul-Haq 63; Rangana Herath 5 for 125, Shaminda Eranga 4 for 60) and 302 for 5 (Azhar Ali 103, Sarfaraz Ahmed 48, Misbah-ul-Haq 68*; Suranga Lakmal 3 for 79) by five wickets.

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