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By Amit Banerjee
Aug 16, 2014
Sri Lanka were cruising at 177 for the loss of two wickets at the end of play on the third day of the second and final Test against Pakistan on Saturday at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo. Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene were at the crease at stumps batting at 54 and 49 respectively.
The day began with Pakistan resuming their overnight score of 244 for six. All eyes were on Sarfraz and Herath from the opposite camps, both of whom had the major share of the team’s expectations resting on their shoulders. Sarfraz was without a set partner after having lost Asad Shafiq barely minutes before the end of play on the previous day.
The highlight of the morning session was the close contest between Sarfraz and Herath. While Sarfraz kept thwarting the latter, who had dismissed half the side on the previous day. After a lot of huffs and puffs, the Karachi-born right-hander reached a well-deserved century which was brought up in style when he hit a four and a six off consecutive deliveries by Chanaka Welegedera.
Herath however awed everyone with a scintillating display of orthodox bowling, ending with the best figures for a left-arm bowler. Herath managed to end his contest with Sarfraz and a budding partnership with a brilliant delivery that Sarfraz tried to drive towards the covers but only managed to get an outside edge that Niroshan Dickwella promptly caught.
All eyes were on Herath now as he looked set to become the first left-arm bowler and second Sri Lankan to take nine wickets in an innings after Muttiah Muralitharan. After a few missed opportunities and close calls, Herath managed to fox spin-maestro Saeed Ajmal, who tried to give himself some room for a cut and only for him to miss it completely and get his leg stump rattled.
Having dismissed Pakistan for 332 right before the players and umpires broke for Lunch, the Sri Lankan openers walked out to the field hoping that they get the ideal start that they got in the first innings, without the middle order collapse that caused them to go from 167 for two to 261 for eight.
Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq decided to introduce spin quite early into the Lankan innings, introducing Abdur Rehman and Saeed Ajmal in the second and sixth overs itself. The visitors were sorely missing the presence of Junaid Khan, who had to be hospitalised after getting hit on his helmet grill by a vicious Dhammika Prasad bouncer whose impact he felt in his jaw. Junaid, who was the pick of the Pakistani bowlers in the first innings with figures of five for 87, was substituted by Umar Akmal.
While Kausal Silva took his time to settle at the crease, barely scoring at a rate of two, Upul Tharanga decided to fire right from the start. The southpaw started attacking the spinners in the early overs and left opposition skipper Misbah-ul-Haq scratching his head. Tharanga struck five boundaries to reach 45 off 63 balls. He was just five runs short of his fifth Test half-century when he tried to pull a low delivery off Rehman that got deflected from the inside edge of the bat and crashed onto his stumps. Pakistan had struck first blood.
In came Kumar Sangakkara, who had the milestones of crossing Brian Lara‘s Test run tally as well as reaching 12,000 career runs in his mind. Silva had barely hit a boundary and showed some signs of opening up when he edged a well-flighted delivery to Younis Khan at the first slip, who would not let it go at any cost.
Silva’s dismissal brought forth the outgoing Sri Lankan batting legend, Mahela Jayawardene, to the ground. His arrival was that of high emotions and the atmosphere suddenly turned electric. The Sinhalese Sports Club, his favourite hunting ground in the world. have him a reception to remember. Members of the Pakistan team as well as Sangakkara came down to welcome him to the ground as he stood at the crease in white clothing for the last time.
The two then took the Pakistani bowlers to task, playing the likes of Ajmal and Rehman with ease as they added 98 runs for the third-wicket. In their last Test partnership together, Sangakkara and Jayawardene managed to achieve several milestones. While Sangakkara crossed Brian Lara’s Test run tally of 11,953 runs when he reached 26, the famed Sri Lankan dup became the second-most successful pair in Test cricket after the cross the record of 6482 runs set by West Indians Desmond Haynes and Gordon Greenidge. Sangakkara then brought up his 51st Test half century by paddling Ajmal away outside leg for a four
It was a tough day for the Pakistani bowlers, who barely tasted success throughout the day and were devoid of energy and enthusiasm towards the end of the day. Rehman was the only bowler to dismiss a Sri Lankan batsman as he managed to send the openers back to the pavilion with a couple of clever deliveries. It was an off-day for Saeed Ajmal, who had a five-wicket haul in the previous Test at Galle, went wicketless during the day, conceding 47 runs from 23 overs.
All eyes will be on Jayawardene tomorrow as the stalwart is a run away from bringing up his 50th half-century, although the fans will be praying for a farewell century to make for a perfect retirement for the 149-Test old former skipper. Pakistan on the other hand will prepare themselves to the fullest in order to get a few wickets and stop the Lankan march.
Sri Lanka 320 and 177 for 2 (Upul Tharanga 45; Kumar Sangakkara 54*, Mahela Jayawardene 49*; Abdur Rehman 2 for 65) lead Pakistan 332 (Ahmed Shehzad 58, Asad Shafiq 42, Sarfraz Ahmed 103; Herath 9 for 127) by 165 runs.
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(Amit Banerjee, a reporter at CricketCountry, takes keen interest in photography, traveling, technology, automobiles, food and, of course, cricket. He can be followed on Twitter via his handle @akb287)
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