Angelo Mathews’ (left) power-hitting cameo took Sri Lanka to victory © Getty Images (File Photo)

By R Vishal

Aug 10, 2014

Sri Lanka, determined to chase down a modest target against Pakistan and beat time and weather in the dying moments of the game and led by some inspired big hitting by Angelo Mathews chased down a 99-run target to win the first Test and lead the series 1-0 thanks to some power hitting and their spin wizard Rangana Herath bamboozling the opposition batsmen to scalp six for 48 earlier in the day. In what was an enthralling Test match, Pakistan took the early honours in the Test match with a cracking 170 by Younis Khan who blunted the hosts’ attack on the first day and with a formidable score of 451 on the board but Sri Lanka fought back magnificently to pull of a win that was largely unlikely after both teams posted big first innings scores.

Chasing 99 at a run-a-ball, Sri Lanka had to go hell for leather and showed their intent from ball one. In the 147 Test matches in his chequered 17-year old career so far,  Mahela Jayawardene opened for the first time for his country. Upul Tharanga’s struggles in the first innings were faded away into the Indian ocean behind the stadium as the southpaw played some spanking drives in the initial overs to unsettle the impeccable Saeed Ajmal and Junaid Khan.

Junaid was all heart, despite his team staring at defeat he was trying every bit of trick in his arsenal and dismissed Tharanga off a delicious ball, which pitched outside the off stump and seamed into the batsman and the Sri Lankan opener was sent packing. Kumar Sangakkara came in and went after the bowlers with the thick blanket of cloud hovering over the ground rapidly. Sangakkara played a couple of glorious shots on both sides of the wicket and just as the Sangakkara-Jayawardene duo have done in the last 15 years, just floated across the pitch playing simple cricket.

When there is Pakistan, Sangakkara can’t be far away from putting their attack to the sword. Sri Lanka were marching along in style and with his unique blend of nonchalance and calculated slogging, Sangakkara was finding the gaps with ease and boundaries were coming thick and fast for Sri Lanka before Junaid Khan produced a gem to dismiss Jayawardene in his penultimate Test and walked away from Galle amidst a rapturous send-off by the capacity crowd.

Mathews came and true to his nature of batting, muscled the bowling attack and played a magnificent pull shot that reached the square leg boundary to warm things up. Sangakkara was still playing his part and was rotating the strike with ease and finesse. The 14th over by Junaid Khan was expensive and there were a couple of pulls from the Sri Lankan veteran that reached the fence. Sangakkara tried to clear the ropes and his long hop of Mohammad Talha was safely taken by Khurram Manzoor. Mathews then showed the ease in which he can clear the fence with some towering sixes to race towards the target to spark off wild celebrations in the south Sri Lankan stadium.

Brief scores:

Pakistan 451 (Younis Khan 177, Asad Shafiq 75, Sarfraz Ahmed 55; Dilruwan Perera 5 for 137 Rangana Herath 3 for 116) & 180 (Azhar Ali 41, Sarfaraz Ahmed 52*; Rangana Herath 6 for 48)  lost to Sri Lanka 533 for 9 decl. (Kaushal Silva 64, Kumar Sangakkara 221, Mahela Jayawardene 59, Angelo Mathews 91; Saeed Ajmal 5 for 166, Junaid Khan 2 for 104) &  99 for 3 (Mahela Jayawardene 26, Kumar Sangakkara 21, Angelo Mathews 35*; Junaid Khan 2 for 55) by 7 wickets.

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(R Vishal is a journalist and alumnus of the Asian College of Journalism. He can be followed on Twitter @vishhell)